Aliceville High School football player returns to the field after losing beloved teammate in fatal crash

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ALICEVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s a story of overcoming adversity and brotherhood: it’s been six months since the single-car crash that killed Aliceville High School football’s Willie Davis, and left the passenger in the car, Deonte Taylor, with life-threatening injuries.

But after a miraculous recovery, Taylor will be playing in Friday’s rivalry game against Gordo.  He and his teammates will have the number 22 on their helmets, to honor Davis.

“We are a team and we’re a family,” explained Coach and Athletic Director Rico Jackson.  “I treat them like my sons.  I’m with them more than my own children.  So Willie was just like a brother to them, and another son to me.  So when you lose someone like that, it stings deep.”

CBS 42’s Leigh Garner sat down with Deonte Taylor to reflect on that March night and his journey back to health.  “We went around a curve,” he remembered of the accident.  “Then the only thing I remember is floating and I heard — like when you put a seashell up to your ear.  It sounds like you’re in the ocean.  That’s all that I heard.”

Taylor said that he was in and out, but he remembered seeing Davis about three feet away from him, struggling to breath.  It wasn’t until later that he learned that Davis had not survived.  “I cried a lot,” he said.

Taylor had a number of serious, and possibly career-ending injuries as a result of the accident.  He was unable to walk until early May.  That’s when he saw himself in the mirror, 50 pounds lights.  “I had never been skinny…and to see myself in the condition that I was in…I can’t really explain how I felt.”

However, it was once he was able to walk again that he started thinking about playing football.  Not for himself–or really even his team–but for Willie.

“It’s something he would have wanted me to do,” Taylor said.  “He would have wanted me to be a better person.  He picked me for a reason to be in the car that day.  It could have been anybody, but he chose me.”

Coach Jackson agreed.  “You know, at the time I told him that I really didn’t care if he played or not, it was more about his well-being,” he explained, “but he’s worked his tail off to come back this season.  Sometimes he gets a little frustrated because he wants to play faster than he needs to…but he’s going to play some tonight, and we’re just proud that he decided that this is something that he wants to do, and he wants to do it for Willie Davis.

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