By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
When the Ole Miss Rebels and the Auburn Tigers tore into each other at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Halloween of 2009, no one expected that what happened when the clock was stopped would drastically overshadow the final score.
An instant before the drama started, Auburn safety Zac Etheridge had been about to tackle Ole Miss running back Rodney Scott. Instead, Etheridge crashed, helmet-first, into Auburn teammate Antonio Coleman.
Etheridge cracked his fifth cervical vertebra on the play, rendering him unable to move.
Scott was on the bottom of the pile. In any normal circumstance, he’d have pushed his way out and up immediately, shrugged off the tackle and promised himself to make more yardage the next time. But something told him Etheridge, sprawled on top of him, was in trouble.
So he waited.
It took 20 minutes for trainers and physicians to stabilize Etheridge enough to get him ready for the ambulance ride.
For those 20 minutes, Scott lay absolutely still.
It had to be uncomfortable – unnerving, even. But he sacrificed his own comfort and convenience for the life of another human, and the heroism and selflessness in Scott’s inactive action continue to draw praise more than two years later.
One person who attended the game wrote on al.com that the feeling in the stadium was “dread.”
“As I look back on that game all the credit goes to Scott for realizing the gravity of the situation … and [doing] everything he could to prevent Zac from further injury,” the fan wrote.
Because of Rodney Scott, Zac Etheridge not only walked again but returned to the football field the next year and helped lead Auburn to the 2010 national championship.
Scott could have pushed Etheridge off him. He could have claimed his freedom, rolled out from under the opposing player and washed his hands of the injury. Under the law, no one could have required that he lie there passively in order not to damage or destroy the life of another human being.
But everybody watching would have known instinctively how wrong it would have been. It would have proven Scott to be selfish and immature and heartless.
Instead, we got to see love and courage combine into a selfless acceptance of unfortunate circumstances, which may have saved another human’s life.
This weekend, when the nation marks the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the argument over rights and demands and compassion and sacrifice, let’s think about that.