THREE RIVERS, Texas — Sebastian Steele said he was exceeding his expectations on the football field in his junior year. He also didn’t expect what happened to him as the Three River Bulldogs took on Flatonia in the playoffs.
“It was scary honestly," the Bulldog wide receiver said. "Didn’t really think it was going to be that bad. The most I thought was maybe broken ribs, but definitely not anything serious like that.”
As Sebastian came across the field to receive a pass, he took a big hit to his abdomen.
“Honestly all I remember is laying on the ground telling the trainer I’m not ready to get up, multiple times,” said Steele.
His father, Sean Steele, recalls watching the hit.
“Time kind of slowed down," Sean said. "It seemed like he was on the ground forever.”
When Sebastian got up there was no initial concern. When he said he was having trouble breathing, his parents decided to take him to the emergency room.
A CT scan revealed a fractured rib, bruised lung, and a torn spleen.
The next day was Sebastian's 17th birthday. He spent that day and five in total at University Children's Center in San Antonio.
But support poured in for him from the time he arrived at the hospital. Gifts and messages were sent his way and the nurses even made sure to sing him "Happy Birthday."
When he returned home, he had quite the welcome.
Ramon Soliz - coach and athletic director of Three Rivers high school.
“We had a big parade for him, I say a big parade, but we got a bunch of cars together, ran by his house," said Soliz. "Just to show support. You never know who’s going to come out. It was a great turnout it was really cool(...) It was our cheerleaders that really kind of came up with that idea."
"I see one of the classmates posted about it, saying everybody is supposed to get together and it was supposed to be a surprise. I wasn't supposed to know about it," said Sebastian laughing.
Nonetheless, he was more than appreciative.
"It was nice to see," he said. "It's tough having to sit there and be the one getting the attention."
But the support didn’t stop there.
His younger sister wanted to find a way to get help for Sebastian's medical expenses, but she didn't know how. Partnering with Sebastian's girlfriend and her family they found a way. They have planned a barbecue fundraiser for Dec. 11.
“I’ve always been here to support," Sebastian said. "Everyone in three rivers is my family, all that. And, it just feels normal to go out and help people out when they’re in need like this. To be on the other side is a whole different feeling.”
“I keep telling people now, we live in the greatest community in the state of Texas, if not, the U.S.," Sean said. "For them to pull together for a kid that some of them don’t even know and the love and support we’ve gotten from everybody is more than we can imagine.”
The Steele family said whatever money is left over from the fundraiser after paying medical bills, will go to the Three Rivers Athletic Department to buy more safety equipment for the football team.
As for Sebastian, he isn't out of the woods yet.
"Any hit to my abdomen, just the right way could be life-threatening, easily," he said.
The tri-sport athlete will have to sit out the basketball and baseball seasons. His doctors tell him no physical activity for at least six months.
Sebastian is hoping if everything goes well, he'll be back on the gridiron for his senior season.
"It's going to go through my mind every game of every sport that he plays," said Sean.
The benefit for Sebastian is Sunday at Kopplin Park in Three Rivers at 10:30 a.m.