Ross wears teammate’s jersey with pride

Published 12:01am Friday, October 19, 2012

NATCHEZ — Adams County Christian School quarterback Brandon Ross knew something was wrong with his teammate way before he eventually collapsed on the sideline and passed out.

Senior defensive back Tyler Buckles fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae, bruised his spine and suffered a concussion on the second play of the season against Cathedral School Aug. 17.

Despite those injuries, Buckles managed to play the majority of the first half before Ross, a junior, became so worried about his teammate’s safety that he pushed him off the field, Ross said.

“I was thinking he didn’t need to be out there in the condition he was in,” Ross said. “I finally took him out of the game myself.”

Buckles said during the first half he did not think he had a concussion or was injured as badly as he was, and he did not think he was showing signs of concussion.

Since that contest, Ross has sported Buckles’ No. 31 jersey for every home game this season — Buckles no longer has a road jersey after medical personnel were forced to cut his open after his injury.

“It didn’t feel right to not have my brother out there,” Ross said. “And with this it feels like a part of him is out there. I’ve actually had my best games wearing his jersey.”

Tonight is senior night for the Rebels, and once again Ross will don the No. 31 jersey in honor of his teammate — possibly for the final time —when ACCS takes the field against Brookhaven Academy.

“It will be very emotional,” Buckles said. “It’s an honor (to have Ross wear the jersey). It feels good, kind of like I’m still out there.”

The injury ended Buckles’ high school football career.

“It felt like somebody had taken something from me,” he said. “It hurts watching the guys and knowing I can’t help when they are losing. But I’m glad I get to be with them.”

Buckles, who will still be in a neck brace for the next two weeks, still manages to support his team as much as possible. He wears a replica ACCS jersey he had made and provides emotional support for his teammates.

“I just tell them to play every play like it’s their last,” he said.

Buckles is one of five Rebel seniors who have had their final season cut short by injury this year, and head coach David King said those losses, especially Buckles, were huge.

“Tyler was the leader of this team without question,” King said.

Cody Rhinehart, Hunter Norris, Tyler Wheeler and Cage Ashley are the other four Rebel seniors who were injured earlier in the season. King said Ashley may see limited action tonight, but the other three injured seniors are out against Brookhaven (5-4, 1-0).

Ross said the underclassmen on the team are looking forward to playing well for their older teammates tonight.

“It’s been difficult, because the underclassmen have had to step up,” he said. “We want to come out and play for them and get them a win.”

The Rebels (3-6, 0-1) played hard in a 49-42 loss to Silliman Institute last week, and King said that effort would have to be repeated tonight.

“Last week our effort was obvious,” he said. “We left it all out there. We will have to play our best football (tonight).”

King said he appreciates the way the Rebel senior class has fought hard for him this season and battled through some tough games.

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