NSA teams fighting hard for injured player
By Andy Collier
Sports Editor, The Bolivar Bullet
The North Sunflower Academy Rebels and Junior High Rebels have been playing with a heavy heart these days.
Both teams are honoring eighth grade football player Tristan Parks, 13, for the remainder of the season. Parks was severely injured in a car accident he was involved in on Sept. 2. He was left paralyzed due to damage done to his spine at the T4 and T5 vertebrae. He also suffered two broken ribs and had surgery to repair his humerus. He is currently recovering at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.
When NSA played Humphreys Academy in the high school game on Sept. 10 at Drew, standouts’ Brian Coleman and Brandon Daniel led the Rebels onto the field holding the No. 33 jersey which is Parks’ number on the junior high team. Parks’ number was also painted on the bell. There have been decals made saying #33 and #TristanStrong. There has been a fund set up called the Parks Family Benefit Fund at all Planters Bank locations to help with expenses. Tristan’s brother, Trevor, is a junior playing on the high school team. He was also in the accident. He was bruised and sore, but he is currently back playing on high school team.
“This is a very small school,” said NSA Head Football Coach Ricky Smither. “They live right close to each other. We spend a lot of time together. Tristan and his family and the loss that we’re having there with him not being a part of us is huge for these guys. They feel like they lost a brother. He’s still fighting. They want him here on the sideline. The best thing we can do is put his number up, honor that and put his jersey on the bench. These guys are very close, and they’re a very loving group. You tell this group you love them and everyone will tell you they love you back. It’s just a very close group.”
Trevor was appreciative of the love everyone has shown toward Tristan and their family.
“I love all the support that everyone has been giving him,” said Trevor. “He’s getting better. He’s taking it well. There’s a ton of support coming towards him and I hope that we keep fighting hard for him, praying for him and keep playing this football season for him.”
Trevor said Tristan has been making great progress.
“He’s out of ICU,” said Trevor. “He’s in his own room and soon he’ll be able to leave and go to therapy. He’s able to move around in a wheelchair for right now.”
On the junior high team, freshman Addison Childs, 14, is one of Tristan’ dear friends and the two have known each other since they were in kindergarten. Childs wore Tristan’s No. 33 jersey during the team’s game at Sharkey Issaquena Academy in Rolling Fork on Sept. 2. The Rebels won that game 44-14.
“It impacted us,” said Childs when the team heard about Tristan’s injuries in the accident. “It was on a Thursday, and we really needed Tristan. He is still an important part of our team. We played for him that night, and we won.”
Childs said Tristan is like a brother to him.
“He is a good person and doesn’t do anything wrong,” said Childs. “He tries really hard in school. He has perfect grades and a good personality. He’s a great friend.”
The NSA Junior High Rebels have won their second straight district championship and are looking to finish the year with a perfect record for the second straight season.
Freshman Bryce Redwine, another one of Tristan’s friends and teammates on the junior high team, said Tristan has always been an inspirational presence on the team.
“When you look at Tristan, he may not be very big, but he’s got the biggest heart that you’ll ever see,” said Redwine. “Everything he does, he does 100-percent no matter what it is. He motivates everybody. If he saw anybody with a frown on their face, he’s going to try to make to turn it into a smile. He has no quit in him and the best sense of humor. He might not have had the biggest body, but he is the backbone of our team. He’s got a lot to do with the success this season.”
A Facebook page, Tristan Strong, has been set up which has provided updates on Tristan’s progress and information about the Parks Family Benefit Fund and other ways to donate.