PARACHUTE, Colorado - Jacob White won't be in the lineup today when the Grand Valley Cardinals take on the Middle Park Panthers in the first round of the Class 2A football state playoffs, but everyone at the game will be pulling for him.
White, 17, suffered a severe injury to one of his legs in an accident that occurred in auto shop class at the school on Wednesday. He was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, where he is making progress toward recovery in the intensive care unit.
For the game's coin toss at 1 p.m. today in Parachute, it won't be just the team captains on the field. All the players on both teams will meet on the field, said Grand Valley Principal Ryan Frink, symbolizing the support of both schools for White.
And in the stands, Grand Valley students and spectators will be able to buy new "We Love You, Cobo" T-shirts being sold to help the White family with medical bills.
As a Grand Valley senior, White is a big part of the school's athletic programs. He plays football, basketball and baseball for the Cardinals.
"He's a three-sport athlete, and he's also got this smiling attitude about life," Frink said.
White played fullback and linebacker for the Cardinals this fall, helping them to an 8-1 record in the regular season. He rushed for 576 yards and three touchdowns on offense and amassed 53 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
But White's priorities were rearranged by the Wednesday accident.
"Right now, the focus is on his life and his recovery back to normality," Frink said. "Sports will definitely take a back seat. We are just supporting him and his family, praying that every day gets better."
White had his second surgery on Friday, and another surgery will be done next week. But on Thursday evening, he was entertaining visitors and therapists had him standing up, starting the rehab process at the soonest possible time.
Frink said White's circulation is good and he can wiggle the toes on his injured leg. He is young, strong and in good physical condition, and doctors believe that will give him an advantage in making a recovery.
"He's not out of the woods, but he is doing well," Frink said.
Jacob and his family moved to Parachute a couple of years ago, and White started at Grand Valley High as a sophomore. That year, he picked up the nickname "Cobo" from his Spanish teacher, who originally called him the Spanish version of his name, "Jacobo," which his classmates shortened to "Cobo."
Tall and muscular, White wears a goatee and his over-the-collar hair is dyed a bright blond. But it's his sense of humor that is his strongest feature, and that seems to not have been scathed by the injury.
Frink said when White's dad, Scott, arrived at school on Wednesday shortly after the accident, the teen cracked a joke about his shoes. When buddies from school visited him in the intensive care unit Wednesday and Thursday evening, he was already making snide and joking comments, Frink said.
"That definitely brought a sense of relief for those individuals and that has been spread through the school," Frink said.
"For his buddies to talk with him and then come back to school and talk about him, it calms a lot of those rumors and concerns," Frink said.
The personal visits from fellow students, teachers and his principal also help make sure that other students and the community have accurate information about White's condition.
School officials are not publicly sharing the details of the accident, which is under investigation. A report is expected to be released next week, said Garfield District 16 Superintendent Ken Haptonstall.