Welcome back Austin Lacy: Amat senior returns after March surgery nearly cost him his life

By Steve Ramirez, Staff Writer
For most high school football players, the beginning of summer practice, from physical conditioning to repetitive drills, can seem quite routine. But for Bishop Amat’s Austin Lacy, it’s a godsend. Lacy, who took his place Wednesday along with his Lancers teammates as they began preparation for the upcoming season, knows he’s fortunate to be back practicing, or doing anything else for that matter. (To continue, click thread

The senior nearly died in March after his heart stopped during an emergency medical procedure to drain his chest. His journey back included a few months of being in the hospital and going through physical therapy.

He took his first few steps back to returning to the football field on Wednesday.

“It feels real good,” Lacy said about his first practice, which included running through a variety of drills at Bishop Amat in preparation of the team’s season opener against Garfield on Sept. 3. “Honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play football again. But just being out here with these guys, means the world to me. It feels real good.”

Which is the exact opposite from when his world turned upside down in March.

Lacy, one of the top linebackers in the area last season, had been complaining of fatigue for about two weeks before he checked into a hospital. Doctors diagnosed him with a heart infection and attempted to drain his chest of fluid when his heart stopped.

“The experience was terrible,” Lacy said. “It was scary. But being out here helps me. I want to be back here with the guys that supported me. I just want to play football again.”

Lacy is getting that chance.

But he still has a way to go to get back into football shape. No one is doubting that he can get back to where he was when he ranked among the best in the area.

“There’s nothing wrong with him physically,” Bishop Amat football coach Steve Hagerty said. “He’s healthy, but he’s been laying in a bed and been doing physical therapy. We’ve been bringing him along slowly all summer, so this is the first time he’s been involved specifically in football stuff.

“A lot of it depends on his effort and his level of work. But I don’t think it will take him too long. But he’s going to have to work really, really hard.”

Lacy believes he can make it back and be 100 percent when the Lancers kick off the season Sept. 3 against Garfield. But he also knows it won’t be handed to him. He will have to earn it.

“I have to just continue working,” he said. “I just can’t come out to the practices. I have to make sure I do everything 100 percent, so I can be like I was before.”

No one wearing blue and gold on Wednesday is doubting the senior, who was a key player for the Lancers last season.

Lacy’s return is just one of several stories for the Lancers, who are expecting to again challenge for a Serra League title and make another run in the CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs.

Bishop Amat will be led by junior Rio Ruiz, who takes over at quarterback. But the Lancers are also expected to get production from Glendora transfer Wallace Gonzales, who might be the best tight end in the area, and running back Zachary Shay.

All will play a big part in Bishop Amat’s success. But before glory can be attained in December, it first must be defined in the summer.

“I’m not thinking about game stuff right now,” Hagerty said. “We have 25 more practices to go before we play, and we have a long way to go.

“We’ve come off a good retreat and had good team bonding. We tried to get kids to understand roles and work together. We’re going to get a lot more done if we do it together, and not alone. That’s our brand. We’re blue collar and we’re going to work together.”

That mantra worked well for the Lancers last season. Bishop Amat went 8-2 during the regular season and took home a share of the Serra League title. Bishop Amat, which advanced to the Pac-5 quarterfinals, also beat traditional powers Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, St. Bonaventure and Mater Dei.

But while some, due to graduation losses, are picking against the Lancers, Hagerty said the expectations are the same.

“We expect to be better than last year,” he said. “We have expectations to defend our league title and play for a CIF title.”

The Lancers’ road to success began Wednesday.

“The kids are pulling for him,” Hagerty said. “We’re pulling for him.

“We’re trying to put him in position where he can get back on the field.” steve.ramirez@sgvn.com

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