Paralyzed teen makes emotional return for football game

A big moment Friday night for Danville and native son Jake Javier.

The 2016 graduate of San Ramon Valley High School, who suffered a paralyzing injury on the last day of school, returned to his alma mater for a football game that was a true homecoming.

The 18 year old was wheeled by his brother Jason onto the fifty yard line to perform the coin toss for the varsity game, as the crowd stood to applaud him.

"Javie, Javie, Javie," was the thunderous chant.

It was only June that Jake dove into a backyard pool and hit his head, breaking his neck.
He had always been admired in the Wolfpack community as an athlete and scholar, headed to college at Cal-Poly.

Now he is admired for the fortitude he's shown since his accident.

First he underwent spinal surgery, and the placement of rods and pins in his spine.

Then he dedicated himself to intense physical therapy, as he tries to regain feeling and strength in his hands and arms.

"Wow, look at you!," exclaimed well-wishers, stopping by the sidelines to greet Jake in his wheelchair.

The trip to campus is his longest outing yet from the rehabilitation hospital at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

"It's amazing to be back," Jake told KTVU, "because I spent a lot of time out here so it's definitely a close place for me."

"I mean every day I feel better, stronger, my stamina's up, so I'm doing great".

Jake's outing started with the junior varsity game, with his dad coaching, and Jason at running back.
Jason's early touchdown brought big smiles to the family.

Mom Isabelle Javier had worried that Jake's emotions, reminded what he's missing, might be difficult for him.

"Watching Jason play, or hearing about football in general, I wondered, but that hasn't been the case, he still loves the game and always has," Isabelle told KTVU.

"He's very calm, very patient, and he adjusts very quickly" she added, "and he's thankful for what he has, he really is."

Jake's parents say he works as hard at healing, as he did in sports, and he's received tremendous support from his friends and coaches.

"There hasn't been one day he hasn't had a visitor," noted dad Jim Javier, "and Jake hasn't changed, he always been focused, positive, it's good to see and we're proud of him."

Sticking around for the varsity game was an endurance test for Jake, but one that he relished.
"He told me the day we met that he wanted to come to this game," smiled recreational therapist Tanya Cooper, who works with Jake at SCVMC.

"To see how naturally he just fits right in, still being a part of the team, I like how everybody has been responding to him. This is his world and he's in his element."

Jake recently took part in a groundbreaking trial infusing millions of stem cells into his spine, in the hope they will regenerate nerves.

He and his doctors won't know for perhaps a year if that improvement will come.

"I'm just focusing on what I've got to do now, and if it does come in, that's great. If not, I will live with what I have, but it's a good hope, said Jake.

"Right now I'm not focused on what I've lost, but what I have the potential to gain."

Friday's game is the last one he will see this season.

Jake and his mom are headed soon to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Colorado, a renowned inpatient rehabilitation hospital for spinal cord injuries, where he will continue his comeback.