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Brady grateful for a final chance on field

Gibbs coach Al Davis thought Walter Brady deserved a second chance: a fifth year of athletic eligibility. So did Brady.

So did the Florida High School Athletic Association.

The running back and his coach pleaded their medical hardship case before the FHSAA on Sept. 2, asking for an extra year to make up for a sophomore season lost to separate left arm and wrist fractures.

"I'm happy because I think he earned his hardship case," Davis said. "It was a hardship for him. He had to wear a brace, he had to go through all kinds of rehab, and he missed a lot of days of school, which put him one credit shy of graduating."

Brady said he is on schedule to graduate this semester. He hopes a college scholarship will follow. The FHSAA decided 17 days after he pleaded his case, and with little preparation time Brady ran for his first touchdown of the season in Friday's 22-17 win over Seminole.

"I just wanted the chance to play," he said before Tuesday's practice at Childs Park Sports Complex. "I was very happy, it was a second chance to prove all the people wrong, that I could come back even stronger."

Davis said Brady has done that, on and off the field. The injury forced Brady to take his grades more seriously. In the school's extended learning program, Brady took classes day and night, and during the summer, to raise his grade-point average and qualify for a Division I-A school. Last year he was Gibbs' turnaround student of the year.

"He's like a son to me," Davis said. "I'm very pleased with what he's done. He's become a role model to the younger players. He helps with the Special Olympics. He's never even had a referral. He's a shy, soft spoken kid.

"Every year we have a senior leading study hall, and this year it's Walter."

At first the injuries got to Brady: "I felt somewhat upset, it seemed like "Why me?' They say God does stuff for a reason, and then it came back to me."

Now Brady, who turns 19 Thursday, has a different attitude: "I knew I came from nothing, and I had to push myself to better myself."

But the FHSAA was more interested in medical and academic records. In Gainesville, before a sectional hearing composed of school officials, Davis, Brady and Gibbs assistant principal for athletics Julius Wynn presented their case.

"The committee voted to determine that there was hardship involved," FHSAA associate commissioner for administration William Grey said.

But Brady will only use a semester of it. South Florida, South Carolina, Central Florida, Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M and Tennessee State have expressed interest in the running back/linebacker.

"He'll be the first member of his family to go to college," Davis said.