Calif. football standout Dawson Fay plays for friends who died

Calif. football standout Dawson Fay plays for friends who died


Calif. football standout Dawson Fay plays for friends who died


One football standout near Sacramento, Calif., is playing this year with a heavy heart after surviving a horrific car wreck in March.

As the Sacramento Bee’s Joe Davidson describes, Nevada Union High School (Grass Valley, Calif.) senior running back Dawson Fay is setting records at his school.

He has done all that this year with late friends Tyler Nielson and Justin Gardner at the front of his mind.

“I think about them all the time, it’s constant,” Fay told the Bee. “It’s still shocking. I miss them every day. I still have memories of what the car looked like.”

On March 26, the three teenagers were on their way to California’s Central Coast for spring break, following their parents, the Bee described. Fay, Gardner and Nielson were struck head-on by a drunk driver on Interstate 5, near Los Banos. Nielson died instantly. Gardner, who was sitting behind Nielson, died about four hours later in the hospital.

As for Fay, he suffered a fractured left hip and facial lacerations, which have since healed.

“How did I survive?” Fay asks himself often and again in this interview with The Bee. “What are the chances that this would happen? I wonder what would have happened if we left a moment later from where we had lunch? I have a lot of guilt.

“I was very close to death. Their side of the car was demolished, and my (passenger side) was barely touched. I know I’m super lucky. I absolutely think Tyler and Justin are looking down on me with pride.”

Fay has rushed for 1,811 yards this season, 121 shy of the school single-season mark, the Bee reports. He already owns the Nevada Union career rushing mark with a total of 3,599 yards.

Fay told the Bee he always has two brothers with him in spirit. He switched to No. 5 this year, Nielson’s number when he was a running back and linebacker as a senior last year. Gardner was slated to be a junior quarterback and linebacker.

“In my 25 years in coaching, there’s no football handbook that prepares you for this,” Miners first-year coach Brad Sparks told the Bee. “Dawson’s handled it all remarkably well. I’ve seen his low points and he always bounces back. He’s motivated, works hard, does well in the classroom, is involved in community service. I really respect him.

“He had every reason to step away but he keeps coming back.”

You can read the rest of Davidson’s heart-wrenching story here.


More USA TODAY High School Sports
Calif. football standout Dawson Fay plays for friends who died
I found this story on USA TODAY High School Sports and wanted to share it with you: %link% For more high school stories, stats and videos, visit