KINGSTON (WATE) - It happened so fast. It was the first tackle of the game between Roane County High School and Sequoyah High last October.
Number 10 on the Yellow Jackets football team, Seth Haynes, would never make another play.
"He wasn't moving," recalled his mother Tammie Haynes, with a shudder.
Seth was loaded onto an ambulance and rushed to UT Medical Center, where doctors determined he had broken his neck. His third vertebrae was crushed.
All the 16-year-old could think about was no more football, ever.
"It's what I've done my whole life," he said.
Just days after a four-hour surgery, Seth made it to his school's homecoming game, joining his teammates for one more huddle.
That's when reality sunk in.
"Once I got up to the homecoming game, it really set in. After I left the game, it kind of hit me hard," Seth said.
Seth kept going, returning to school in January. He's still the first one to raise his hand in class.
He's trying to get on with life, but is battling the occasional bouts of depression. That's not uncommon after head trauma.
"I just get a little cranky sometimes, " Seth said. "It's just weird, moods like that."
His mother says doctors have told her the mood swings will likely fade away in time.
Teachers and coaches at his school admire Seth for soldiering on. Basketball Coach Ryan Colt Narramore has Seth in his biology class.
"He handles it every day, goes about his business, doesn't make any excuses," said Coach Narramore.
Seth's friends, like Preston Edmonds, miss him on the football field.
"Yeah, I think everybody will," Preston said.
As 6 News followed Seth over the past three months, there's been one big question mark. Would he need another grueling surgery before he could start moving on?
We went with him back to UT Medical Center to find out.
Seth underwent a CT scan to check the healing process of the damaged bones and ligaments in his neck.
"I was scared because I thought I was going to have to get another surgery," he said.
Hours after the scan, the family got the news.
No new surgery and a bonus. Seth's doctor says he can take off his neck brace for 10 minutes every day.
"I was kind of in shock," Seth said with a smile. "Happy, but in shock."
The downside is the pain when Seth has to have help getting the neck brace back on.
Now that the worry of more surgery is over for now, Seth can turn his full attention to moving forward.
His mother, grandmother and sister are grateful for that, and for the outpouring of support from the community. The family has held on to every card, letter and photograph.
Seth tells us he's learned a lesson he'll never forget.
"There's good people out there that care about you, no matter what."
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