By Sydney Wright
Photo by Shane Marshall
“You never know when it’s your last play.”
This is a message that rings true with Nephi Sewell’s new outlook on his career in football. Sewell, a senior at Desert Hills High, was born in American Samoa, specifically in a small town where the only way out was with a scholarship in football.
“You start to love the game, more than just a game,” Nephi said in discussing his journey with football.
Growing up in a “football family,” Nephi was around the sport ever since he was born. His dad was a high school football coach in American Samoa and would take Nephi and his brother to practices.
Although they weren’t technically on the team, the boys would do drills with the high schoolers. Sewell’s love for football truly developed when he got to play wearing pads for the first time. However, the past year and a half has provided some unexpected challenges for Nephi.
During the first game of the 2015-16 season, he broke his neck on a key play. Taken out for the season, Sewell had to endure months of painstakingly slow physical therapy in order to get back on the field.
“It basically felt like it was the end of the world for me,” Nephi recalls.
When given the news of the severity of his injury in the hospital bed, he cried. Everything he had worked on for years was reduced to rudimentary movement. Nephi’s career was put on hold, and it was difficult not just for him, but his teammates as well.
“I didn’t want it to be over. Nobody wants it to be over,” Nephi said. “It hurt the team. I’m somewhat a key player. We came into season with me in the lineup; no one was expecting for this to happen.”
“I was so used to going out and going to the gym, but definitely sitting at home just watching TV wasn’t my thing,” Nephi said.
Only being able to walk and very carefully turn his neck from side to side occasionally was a test of patience and perseverance.
“Before I got hurt, Nephi said, “I basically took football for granted, but now I know that really any play can be your last.”
Nephi uses his “hold back” as inspiration to do his best regardless of the situation he is in.
“I’m not taking anything for granted,” Nephi said, “even something like practice. Practice means a lot to me. Watching practice and games definitely hurt because I wanted to be out with the team. But now? It’s all good.”
Sewell is back in the game, and he is taking it as a second chance for him to keep his head in the game.
“Since I’ve been playing again, it has proved that working hard can show in the field,” Nephi said.
These aren’t just promises, either. Sewell has worked his hardest and succeeded in being back on top.
“All I can really say is, trust in God,” he said. “This is all part of the plan, and you just have to trust it. Also, have patience. During this process I’ve just been working on my patience. Now I’m more patient with not only myself, but with everyone else and time.”
Through thick and thin, Nephi pushed through to reach his goals and is determined to help those who are struggling with recovery. The senior has his career set in place and after high school is ready to play football or to become a physical therapist.
Sewell has inspired many in the community with his story of resilience. His overall goal is to inspire and to help those who are with or behind him on the path to success.
Desert Hills High junior Sydney Wright wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year. Wright is a student with a passion for journalism and learning about those around her.