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Team officials would not comment, but Jim Shively, vice-president of the public relations group that helped coordinate the vote, said that Skiles was the fans' favorite because "they like his gritty attitude" and because Skiles makes so many public appearances to promote the team. Shively added, however, that "we're thinking of having sportswriters around the state pick the team MVP next year and have the fans pick their most popular player."
A HERO RETURNS
As he took the field for his team's first spring football practice two weeks ago, Long Beach State junior Mark Seay received, fittingly, a hero's welcome. Seay was the 49ers' leading receiver in 1988, but his season ended on Oct. 30 that year when he was shot by a gang member at a children's Halloween party in Long Beach. Earlier that day, Seay had made the mistake of saying, "What's happening, blood?" to a teenage member of a gang called the Crips who happened to ride his bicycle past Seay's sister's house; the teen, insulted that Seay would address him by the name of the Crips' archrivals, the Bloods, came back in a car and sprayed the house with gunfire. While shielding his two-year-old niece, Tashawnda, Seay was hit with a .38-caliber bullet that ripped through his right kidney and lodged one inch from his heart. The kidney is now gone, but the bullet remains. The assailant is serving 25 years for assault with a deadly weapon.
Seay, a criminal justice major who frequently counsels youngsters against joining gangs, came back in April 1989 to participate in spring drills. That summer, however, Long Beach State told him he couldn't play for the 49ers because the risk of injury to his remaining kidney was too great. In August 1989 Seay sued the university, contending that the decision whether or not to play should be his alone.
Last September a judge ruled that there wasn't clear proof that Seay's kidney was functioning properly and denied him an injunction that would have allowed him to play. But in March, with a jury trial about to begin, Long Beach State settled out of court, agreeing to let Seay play if he signed a waiver absolving the school of liability. As part of the agreement, Seay will wear a flak jacket while playing.
The university's concerns are legitimate. The National Kidney Foundation advises kidney donors against participating in contact sports. "You can live a normal existence with one kidney, but you must take precautions," says foundation president Dr. Saulo Klahr. "In a contact sport like football, the remaining kidney might suffer trauma and bleed. He's putting his health at serious risk."
Seay is willing to take his chances. "Before I lost a kidney, there were risks in my playing football," he says. "The percentages are still the same. If I'm going to lose this kidney, it could happen at home. Or I could be driving or walking down the street. I'd rather lose it doing something I want to do."