Josh Mercer was an all-district linebacker for Alexandria Senior High preparing for his senior season.
Another strong season and Mercer would likely be accepting an offer to play in college.
Everything changed during spring drills. Josh went to make a tackle like he had done hundreds of times before. The runner nailed Josh in the side of the head. Josh knew something wasn’t right, as his head hurt following the tackle. Trying to leave the practice field, he collapsed.
At first, it was thought he might have a concussion.
“He had a look in his eyes that he wasn’t right,” ASH football coach Chris Gatlin told The Town Talk. “We knew that something was wrong.”
When his mother, Christine, arrived at the school, she found him lying beneath the stadium’s bleachers while being attended to by coaches. She then rushed him to the nearest hospital. Several examinations and CAT scans showed Josh had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Josh was then transferred to Rapides Regional Medical Center as a Level 2 trauma activation.
After a couple of days in the hospital, Josh was released. The only symptom he was experiencing was a headache.
Later in the week, though, Josh’s condition worsened. He was rushed back to Rapides Regional on May 28 when he began having difficulty speaking and lost the ability to move his right arm and leg.
The next day, he had brain surgery.
A little over a week later, Josh was beginning physical therapy when he had a setback and was placed back in ICU.
This time, when Josh awoke, he got up and walked across the room. His motor skills had returned and his speech had improved. The headaches had also disappeared.
Within a week, Josh was discharged. Although he needed speech therapy, he did not need physical therapy. The speech therapy ended in just six weeks after being scheduled for 12 weeks.
When his senior school year began in August, Josh was back in class at ASH. His playing career over, Josh got a jump on his career plans of being a high school football coach. He was a student assistant as the Trojans reached the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
The school retired his jersey and created the Josh Mercer Award, which will be presented annually to a football player based on their attitude, hard work, dedication and commitment to the football program.
Josh will graduate on time in May. He had planned to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, but he changed his mind. He will now attend LSU-Alexandria. That way, he’ll be back on the sidelines this fall as an assistant football coach.