A week ago, Todd McNamee feared his 16-year-old son would never wake up.
Sean McNamee had already been in the hospital for two days, ever since he slammed his bare head on a field liner before football practice at Wharton High School. He lay in a medically induced coma. Friends and family and a spiritual adviser trickled in and out of his room in the intensive care unit. Infection set in.
Finally on Friday, nine days after the accident fractured his skull and nearly killed him, Sean woke up.
"Small steps on a long road but progress is what we want," Todd McNamee wrote on Facebook.
After Sean regained consciousness, his family and their attorney said, he was responsive enough to nod his head yes or no. He could squeeze visitors' hands. He recognized his parents.
"The prayers of many have been heard," Steve Yerrid, his family's attorney, said in a statement.
Those small steps toward recovery were far from certain Oct. 9. Sean was playing catch with his teammates before practice that afternoon, on the field behind the high school. The 6-foot-2 junior linebacker/defensive end jumped over a defender, landed on the ground and struck his head on an unattended paint machine used to line the field.
Because he was practicing before drills officially began, Sean was not wearing a helmet.
The blow fractured his skull and required emergency surgery to remove bloody tissue and reduce the swelling in his brain. Doctors told his family Sean might not survive. If he did, it's unclear what long-term damage might have been done to the left side of his brain, which controls functions like speech and the use of his right limbs.
Hillsborough County public schools and Yerrid are both investigating the incident.
Yerrid said that the district has agreed to provide him with surveillance video of the accident and that the Yerrid Law Firm has already interviewed some teammates and witnesses but hopes more come forward.
"I am certain the School Board and its attorneys will assist us in seeing to it that all the facts are made known regarding the events of that day," Yerrid said.
The McNamees have been flooded with support from area teams, including Tampa Catholic, Freedom and Wiregrass Ranch. Cypress Community Church hosted a prayer vigil Wednesday night. His family posted a picture on social media of a get-well-soon football autographed by former Bucs coach Tony Dungy.
"We're so grateful for all of the prayers that have been sent for Sean," said his grandfather, Doug McNamee.
That outpouring of kindness included hundreds of messages sent across the country on Twitter. Last week, they used the hash tag #PrayForSean.
By Friday afternoon, they replaced it with a new one: #SeanStrong.
Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.