A year after surviving an on-field heart attack, Hayward Demison tore through defenses at Central Catholic High. He collected 1,446 rushing yards, 303 receiving and 19 total touchdowns, leading the Rams to a 10-3 record and the Oregon Class 6A semifinals. He is considering Weaver State, Eastern Washington and Wyoming, among others.Read More Below
The play was "sweep odd." Central Catholic (Ore.) High trailed Canby (Ore.) High 24-21 with 7:30 remaining in the fourth quarter during their game on Sept. 10, 2010, and running back Hayward Demison was set to receive the ball. He faked to the middle then cut outside, sprinting 45 yards untouched to the end zone. It was the difference in a 28-24 Rams' victory. It was the moment coach Steve Pyne knew that Demison was a special talent.
The last thing Demison remembers about the game was collapsing to the ground.
Pyne called for Demison on the next offensive series, but couldn't find him on the sidelines. He figured the 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior was having an asthma attack. Demison thought the same, but one puff from his inhaler only made the pounding in his chest worse.
Demison was having a heart attack.
"It began to get faster and faster like someone was shooting a dagger through my heart," he recalled.
Pyne finally located Demison, and Lisa Lyver, a cardiac nurse in attendance, began to administer chest compressions. Coaches and players prayed. Demison's heart stopped beating entirely, but thanks to Lyver's CPR, he miraculously survived.
Two weeks later, he was diagnosed with an arteria defect. He was given two options: Undergo triple-bypass surgery and never play football again, or consent to a three-hour open heart operation.
Demison chose the latter. He hasn't looked back since.
"From that moment on," he said, "I just kept looking forward to returning to football."
His senior season was triumphant: He led Central Catholic to a 10-3 record and the Oregon Class 6A semifinals.
His journey back wasn't easy. Demison was forced to miss the final eight games of 2010 in order to provide ample time for recovery. He eased into workouts, and even after his heart defect was corrected -- and his life saved -- doctors weren't certain he'd be able to play sports again. His teammates and coach Pyne remained hopeful but doubtful.
Not Demison. Despite the bleak outlook, he maintained steadfast determination, a resolve that surfaced last spring. Also a member of the track team, he won the conference championship in the triple jump just seven months after surgery.
"I don't think he ever thought that he wouldn't be back," said Pyne.
His statistics abet that. Through 13 games, Demison racked up 1,446 rushing yards, 303 receiving yards and 19 total touchdowns. However improbably, he didn't just return. He was even better than before.
Unfortunately, his success has gone largely overlooked. Without game film from his junior year, Demison has been passed over by the majority of college scouts. He's currently considering Weaver State, Eastern Washington and Wyoming, among others, but Pyne believes additional D-I schools would have offered had Demison not suffered a heart attack.
"He's just now starting his senior season, so to speak," said Pyne. "He missed his whole junior year."
The lack of attention doesn't faze Demison, though. He has a 3.0 GPA, friends in every pocket Central Catholic and plans to major in broadcast journalism next fall. He also has "no doubt" that he'll find success at the next level, much like he never questioned his remarkable gridiron return.
But for Demison -- an immensely talented tailback -- football isn't everything. More than a year after his heart stopped beating, he's enjoying a newfound perspective on life.
"My focus is just to become better and become great," he said.