Each is the star quarterback at a powerhouse football school.
They are also best friends, and have been since they were 8 years old.
Riding along with two of his friends, Will remembers hearing three loud bangs.
He didn’t know if it was fireworks. He didn’t know why he couldn’t hear anything. He didn’t know what the pain he felt was.
“I was confused. My ears were ringing because it was really loud. I thought it was a firework. I didn’t know what the pain in my neck was,” Will said. “I was conscious, but I don’t know. I was in shock.”
Three shots were fired. One hit Will in the back of the neck, one hit Cole Kelley in the left ankle and one struck Austin Rivault in the back of the head, tragically ending his life.
“I looked back, and I knew Austin was dead,” Bellamy said.
It was Feb. 10, 2013, and they were 15 years old.
The night started at a local Mardi Gras parade before Will, Cole and their group of friends ended up at fellow football player and current St. Thomas More kicker Bailey Raborn’s house.
Austin Rivault met them there and the kids hung out before Will and Cole decided to drive Austin home, a little over a mile away.
“Cole and I didn’t want him to walk home during Mardi Gras and it being so late,” Will said.
What happened next has been the subject of a controversial trial and plenty of heated conversation around Acadiana.
What is known is this: The three boys never made it to Austin’s home. Instead, they ended up in front of Seth Fontenot’s house. Fontenot, who was 18 at the time, came out of his house with a loaded gun and shot at them, wounding Will and Cole, and killing Austin.
In July, Fontenot was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 13 months in prison.
Since the shooting, Will and Cole — despite being football rivals — have grown closer as friends.
“We’ve been best friends since we were about 8 years old,” Will said. “Me and Cole leaned on each other and helped each other get through it. It was tough.”
Jon Bellamy, Will’s father, said the two share a bond most people wouldn’t understand.
“What happened that night just doesn’t happen to the majority of the population,” he said. “They have a bond that you couldn’t share with anyone else.”
The new normal
That’s not surprising, said Dr. Joy Osofsky.
She is the editor of Children in a Violent Society, the Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Services for Louisiana Spirit and is currently researching the impact of trauma on infants, children and families and effective intervention and treatment strategies.
“Each of them could provide more support to the other because they went through the same experience. They both were shot and they both witnessed their friend die,” Osofsky said.
Osofsky also is a professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Louisiana State University and in 1998 was awarded the Badge of Honor by the City of New Orleans for her work with children and families exposed to violence.
She said the supportive environment both Bellamy and Kelley were in following the shooting helped them bounce back and retain some sense of normalcy in their lives.
“In a supportive environment, most young people will be extremely resilient and bounce back to what we call the ‘new normal.'” Osofsky said. “And be able to deal with the adversity quite well, but it never goes away.”
The fact that both boys have gone on to have great success in their high school and football lives shows how effective the support system around them was, she said.
One of the most important support relationships Will and Cole had was with each other, though.
“That brought them together in a way that they didn’t have before,” Osofsky said.
She said the boys will live with the experience forever, but thanks to their relationship with each other and the relationship with their families both have shown remarkable bounce back ability and it is why both have gone on to such successful lives since.
Teammates and rivals
Will and Cole grew up playing travel baseball together. Until high school, they were teammates in most sports.
“Will was never the type of kid who would stay inside and play Playstation all day,” Jon Bellamy said. “He always had some type of ball in his hand.
“I didn’t know what type of athlete he would be, but I knew he would work at it as hard as he could.”
He remembers Cole always drawing attention because of how much bigger he was than everyone else. He is now 6-foot-7 in his senior season.
“He was always one of the toughest kids,” Jon Bellamy said. “He’s always had a special talent.”
Both Will and Cole are looking ahead to continuing their careers at the college level, Will at Henderson and Cole at Arkansas.
Will still has a bullet lodged in his jaw from that night.
Doctor’s don’t want to take the bullet out because of the threat the surgery could pose. So he has constant reminder of how close his encounter to death was.
“The surgery might mess with some of the nerves in my jaw, so the doctors don’t want to do it,” Will said.
Will said the shooting changed him in other ways, made him mentally tougher.
“I’m not the same person I would’ve been,” Will said. “Physically maybe so, but not mentally.”
Rest assured, though. When he takes the field Friday, Will said, he won’t be thinking about the shooting. He won’t be thinking about the past at all. He will be facing his old friend — his best friend — but he will be thinking only about winning a football game.