Gaddy makes a triumphant comeback
St. Peter’s Prep standout shines, two years after near-fatal injury
Bhima Gaddy says that he relived the moment that changed his life forever "about a million times in my mind."
"I remember it like it was yesterday," said Gaddy, the St. Peter’s Prep senior football standout. "I think I’ll always remember it."
Two years ago, when Gaddy was a sophomore, he was on the kickoff return squad during a game against Ferris. Gaddy was doing his job, coming up through the blocking wedge to make the tackle on the return man with the ball. However, when a fully-extended Gaddy reached to tackle the Ferris runner, he was inadvertently hit in the lower back by his own teammate and best friend, Pat Farrell.
"He didn’t mean it, but he nailed me in the side," Gaddy said. "I knew right away that it wasn’t the wind getting knocked out of me. I went to the sidelines and no matter what I did, the pain was unbelievable and I could never get comfortable."
The Marauders’ team physician, Dr. Kevin Julian, realized that there was something seriously wrong with Gaddy and immediately called for an ambulance. Gaddy was rushed to the Jersey City Medical Center, suffering from injuries to his spleen, which later ruptured. Six hours after the injury took place, Gaddy was undergoing emergency surgery to save his life.
Gaddy lost a lot of blood during the ordeal and almost died.
"It was really frightening for all of us," Prep head coach Rich Hansen said. "It’s the most frightening thing I’ve ever gone through, as either a player or a coach. We were all in the chapel and the hospital every day. After the spleen was removed, it was a very dangerous time for the first 72 hours. There’s a possibility of infection. I think the whole school community rallied around the incident, on the edge of our seat, hoping Bhima would recover."
Gaddy did recover from the surgery, but football wasn’t in the immediate thoughts for most people. Except one: Bhima Gaddy.
"I had a lot of time for reflection while I was in the hospital," Gaddy said. "And I realized that through the whole ordeal that I was willing to die for the game. My family didn’t want to think about it, but coming back to play again was the No. 1 goal for me. I wasn’t going to hear that I was done. It was talked about, but I didn’t want to hear it."
Gaddy worked hard to rehabilitate himself. He got ready to play in time for his junior year. But his mother made sure of one thing – that he would be strictly relegated to defense. She didn’t want him to become exposed to a possible hit where the injury took place.
"I think everyone’s concern was for Bhima’s well being," Hansen said. "Immediately, there was a major concern about playing football, but I knew in Bhima’s mind, he was going to find a way to come back. We knew the ramifications and played it real cautious last year, so he only played defense. And it killed him. He wanted to play offense. He begged me. But I made a promise."
"It hurt," Gaddy said. "I didn’t like the limitations. But my mom didn’t want me to play at all."
But before this year, Gaddy received clearance – both medical and maternal – to play on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
"He’s 100 percent and had no side effects," Hansen said. "He’s worked hard and he’s a strong kid. He went through a long, tedious process to get back. Once I knew he could play offense, he gave us another offensive option. He was a man on a mission in the off-season to get ready."
However, during the Marauders’ first two games, both of which were losses, Gaddy only received 10 carries.
"It was just circumstance," Hansen said. "It wasn’t anything else. But going into the last game [against Bayonne], we decided to change things up a little."
Gaddy got more of an opportunity to carry the ball in last Saturday’s game against Bayonne and he made the most of it, gaining 187 yards on 15 carries and scoring three touchdowns. Defensively, Gaddy collected 12 tackles, including two sacks, and a fumble recovery, leading the Prep to a crucial 28-20 victory.
And for his efforts, Gaddy has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
After losing to Emerson and Gulliver Prep of Miami in successive weeks, Prep faced a must-win situation against Bayonne. A third straight loss to start the season would have been fatal. Hansen called upon his senior leaders – one of whom is Gaddy – to step up their performance level for the big game.
"We had a team meeting last Monday, just me and the seniors," Hansen said. "We felt we had to all share the responsibility and really asked the seniors to take a deep breath, let all the bad of the last two weeks out and start again. You could see that the intensity level was different. Bhima is also extremely conscious of his responsibility. He lives for the game. Football is basically his life."
"I wanted to win this game more than anything," Gaddy said. "We wanted to redeem ourselves. We couldn’t take another loss. We all had to get back on the same page. I think we did that."
Following the lead of their inspirational captain.
"Bhima was the hot back and we just kept going to the hot back," Hansen said. "And he basically just took the game over on both sides of the ball. To do what he did on both sides is very tough to do."
Added Hansen: "I’m so happy for him. To go through all he has and to come back and get the opportunity to perform is great personally for Bhima. It’s gratifying to see it happen for him, because he’s been through so much."
Gaddy realizes that his comeback tale is extremely inspirational.
"It really is special, something that I can reflect on," Gaddy said. "A game like that happens only once in a lifetime. I was in a zone and was able to capitalize on it. It’s a special victory and a special game for me."
Gaddy was asked about the origin of his very unique first name. It comes from his mother’s Hindu background.
"Bhima means, ‘The Terrible One,’ in Hindu," he says. "I don’t think it’s me. Sometimes, the name just fits."
Last Saturday, Gaddy was far from terrible. He was terrific. And when you consider where he was two years ago, he was more then terrific. It’s more like miraculous.