Blake football player learns to coach after injury

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA 9) — Former center and offensive lineman on Blake’s varsity football team, Paul Farrell, sustained a spinal cord injury that took him off the gridiron permanently as a player. Now, he’s learning to see the game from a coach’s perspective.

“Football teaches a lot about life,” said Paul. “To be able to play out there on the field with your brothers … your family; it’s perfect.”

Last year, Paul was an undersized center on the Bengals team, but he shined on special teams and the offensive line. On October 25, he got caught in an impossible situation while covering a kick return.

“While I was back pedaling … I was collided with two people and I had helmet to helmet contact … I instantly went into shock and I hit my cerebellum on the ground,” said Paul.

Blake head coach Tony Nazarro saw the hit from the sideline.

“It looked like a play that happens a hundred times a day on the football field,” said Nazzaro.

But it wasn’t.

“Waking up it was terrible. I saw a pitch black atmosphere. I had trouble … breathing,” Paul recounted. “When I was trying to talk, it felt like my lungs were collapsing.”

Blake head football coach Tony Nazzaro oversees football practice.

Blake head football coach Tony Nazzaro oversees football practice.

“I just remember I was sitting there holding his hand, and I knew he couldn’t feel me touching him. It was a scary thing for sure,” said Nazarro.

The then 16-year-old spent about a month in the hospital. He thought he would never walk again. About a month after the injury Paul was able to walk again, but playing football was out of the question. His doctors forbid him to play contact sports ever again because another hit could further damage his spinal cord possibly resulting in paralysis.

It was after that news that coach Nazzaro looked for a way to keep the senior a part of the Bengal football family.

“I think we both knew he wanted to be involved and I wanted to keep him involved in the program somehow,” said Nazzaro.

This season, Paul roams the field as an assistant through an internship program at Blake. His journey to the coach’s perspective of the game is a lesson in adversity — overcoming it and not allowing it to break you.

“Adversity changes a lot of people and it’s how you take adversity,” said Paul. “Adversity is a great character builder.”

As Paul heads down a path in coaching, his character shows him to be strong, humble and still in love with the game he can no longer play.

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