Harris back for Wildcats after three-wheeler accident
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Sept. 8, 2005 - Football may be a game of inches, but the life of Sulphur Springs senior Keith Harris teetered on something even more precarious - a mere centimeter.

Harris is back on the football field for the Wildcats, a testament to his ability to overcome a near-death experience about 16 months ago that left him with 142 staples across his neck.

In May 2004, when Harris was ending his sophomore year, the Wildcats were going through spring practice. After practice one day, Harris went back to the family farm in Thermo and jumped on his three-wheel ATV.

It was a common occurrence, but the ride ended up in a near-tragedy.

"I just started riding around and ended up running into a bobwire fence," Harris recalled.  "It was out at my house. I was going too fast and tried to make a turn and the three-wheeler flipped and I slid down a fence. 

"It just about killed me - the cuts were about a centimeter from my jugular vein."

Harris was severely cut on the right side of his neck and chest. When he got up and saw he was bleeding, he started running toward his house, about 200 yards away.

His father, a state highway patrolman, saw what happened and caught his oldest son. His training as an officer no doubt helped him stay calm and assess the situation as Keith was bleeding. 

"My dad was in the pasture with me and saw me, so he came over to get me in the truck, and he took me to the hospital," Harris said. "He was real calm about it. He wasn't freaking out or anything. He just wanted to make sure my jugular wasn't cut. 

"My chest was cut real bad, too, but we both didn't know until we got to the hospital. We were mostly concerned about my neck, and he saw that the jugular wasn't cut, so he knew that we would get to the hospital in time."

Despite his father's reassurance, Keith knew that the cuts were deep and severe, and he was losing blood from the three large slashes.

"After it happened, I just took off running to the house because I didn't know if my dad saw me or not. I was about 200 yards from the house. I just knew I had to get somewhere to get help because I was losing a pretty good amount of blood," he said.

"When my dad told me my jugular hadn't been cut, I was a little relieved, but I also knew I was in bad shape. I had to get some pressure on it, stay conscious and get to the hospital."

At the hospital, he was given an untold number of internal stitches and 142 external staples. He stayed in the hospital for three days, and once he was released, one of his first stops was to watch the intrasquad spring football game.

"Now, I'm back here doing my thing," he said Thursday while getting prepared to play Mesquite Poteet. "The doctor said it would six months for them to fully heal like they are now. I don't have any restrictions."

Harris is back to a normal life, hunting, fishing and working cattle at the farm.

He's also playing football as a back-up wide receiver and special teams player. He had a key block on Chris Person's 53-yard kickoff return that set up a touchdown in last week's win over Forney.

Harris knows he has a role as a team leader. His teammates should give him instant respect for living through the scars on his neck that have earned him the nickname, "Zip."

"I try to be a leader in practice," he acknowledged. "Being a senior, you have to take on that role of looking after younger guys and make sure they're doing what they should be."

Harris still occasionally rides three-wheelers, but he stays away from fences now.

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