Zack Darlington, Nebraska’s quarterback commit for the 2014 recruiting class, left the field Saturday on a stretcher and was loaded onto to a helicopter after hitting his head on the turf in the fourth quarter of his first game as a senior.
Darlington was trying to lead Apopka (Fla.) on a game-tying touchdown driven when he was hit near the sidelines by a Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes defender. Darlington’s head bounced off the turf violently. ESPN, which televised the game nationally, reported that Darlington had been knocked unconscious by the hit. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder was put onto a stretch, stabilized with a neck brace and taken to an adjacent baseball field to wait for a helicopter from Spartanburg Regional Hospital.
ESPN ended its broadcast — a 51-36 win for Byrnes — by showing a picture of the helicopter taking off and reporting Darlington was moving on his own and conscious. Players are often flown or driven to hospitals after major hits to the head as a precaution, whether the injury turns out to be long-term or not.
Darlington — who picked Nebraska over Ohio State, among other schools, after an unofficial visit this summer — had helped Apopka close Byrnes’ lead to 44-36 in a physical, wide-open game prior to the hit. Zack’s dad, Rick Darlington, is Apopka’s head coach. ESPN cameras captured the Darlington’s large family as visibly upset in the Byrnes stands.
The Orlando Sentinel — which has Darlington rated as the top player in Central Florida and had him as a centerpiece to its 2013 high school football preview — reported that Darlington suffered a concussion earlier this summer during a conditioning exercise. Darlington took several big hits during the game Saturday, and even exited the game for a series of plays, sitting on the bench, being surrounded by teammates. The Blue Darters struggled to protect Darlington against the Rebels’ constant blitzing.
“The diagnosis is that he has a concussion and has to be under observation for 24 hours,” Apopka athletic director Fred Priest told the Orlando Sentinel. “His parents are staying here with him while the team returns home.”
The Blue Darters’ team Twitter feed posted this tweet shortly after the game.
Video: Darlington injured following big hit