Six months after undergoing brain surgery, a North Forsyth High School senior made his return to athletic competition Friday night.
Josh Haddock took the field as the Raiders opened their lacrosse season against North Gwinnett in Coal Mountain.
A large crowd, including mother Natalie Roth, cheered his return.
"I’m not really scared, I’m just happy for him," Roth said. "I’m thrilled he gets to compete again.
"He was cleared Jan. 4 for everything. The doctor said we didn’t have to come back unless we had some concerns or issues."
Friday's game capped a remarkable recovery for Haddock, who suffered bleeding on the brain and collapsed during football practice Aug. 25 at North. Surgery and months of rehabilitation followed.
"Every step of the way he’s had a goal," Roth said. "When he was in ICU, his goal was to get out. When he was in the step-down unit, he wanted to get into rehab as soon as possible.
"He’s met every single goal he set for himself the whole way. It’s just been one of the things that kept him going is having something to shoot for."
And Roth, though perhaps harboring some motherly concerns, couldn't be more proud of her son.
"He’s actually at a lower risk of a brain bleed, at least on that same side, because his arteries have hardened up because of the trauma," she said.
"He’s been never say die, never quit, never miss an opportunity, so who should I be to tell him he can’t ... that he can’t push himself for something he wants to do."
Though he missed the rest of football season in the fall, Haddock cheered on his teammates and got to participate in the coin toss as team captain before the Raiders' state playoff game Nov. 12.
Roth said her son has not ruled out a future in football, though “lots of things have to happen for that to happen.”
Among them is a special helmet to protect the implant Haddock has had placed in his head.
But first, he'll enjoy lacrosse season.