Football players have to worry about injuries like pulled muscles, torn ligaments, or broken bones every time they step on a field, but an injury off the field left San Jose State Linebacker Jared Leaf severely burned and was in critical condition after a fire at his off-campus apartment this April. He then spent six weeks in the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center's burn unit before being allowed to continue his recovery at his home in Martinez, California and plans to resume his classwork this fall."
"I think I have a new appreciation for everyday life," he told reporters at a press conference at his home on Monday, "They always say people our age think they're invincible, and it's really true. You never think something like that can really happen. Then all of a sudden you're stuck in a burning building with one way out."
After starting his career at the University of Hawaii, Leaf transferred to San Jose State to be closer to home. During his season away due to transfer rules, he became heavily involved in the University's theater program. On April 23, he had spent several hours with his theatre group working on a video, then went home and went to sleep.
Around 11:30 p.m. he woke up to smoke coming through his door. A friend had lit a candle that accidentally ignited a couch that started the fire in his third-floor apartment. Rather than jump three stories down, he rushed through the door and through the fire trying to escape. "I ran through blackness, then red and orange and light," he said, "My whole living room and kitchen were on fire."
Leaf suffered second-degree burns on his back, torso, and arms, with his recovery including skin grafts and being placed in a medically-induced coma. Even after all of this, he is still hopeful that he'll be on the field for the Spartans first snap against North Dakota on Aug. 28.
"Only time will tell at this point, I feel exponentially better every day." he said, "There's no doubt I'll be able to get back out there at some point."
If you would like to support Jared and his family, check out the Team Leaf Facebook page.