Tommy Horn found out how much football means to him last year.
The 6-foot, 180-pound quarterback for the Hilliard Bradley High School football team suffered a spinal-cord injury from a hit he took during the third quarter of a 42-0 loss to visiting Darby in the Jaguars' final game of the season.
The injury left the then-junior lying unconscious on the turf of the Jaguars' home stadium. He was carted off the field and taken to Riverside Methodist Hospital, where he remained for three days.
"I was hit hard and instantly was unconscious," Horn said. "I thought I was in a car, but it was the (emergency) squad (vehicle). But that obviously wasn't really clear. The first time I really knew where I was at was in the hospital, under bright lights, and (the doctors and nurses) were cutting off my equipment.
"When I came to, I realized that might be it, (that) I might not be able to play again. I might not get to play my senior year."
Horn suffered a bruised spinal cord and fractures of his L2 and L4 vertebrae from the hit, but he avoided a catastrophic injury, namely paralysis.
After months of recovery and rehabilitation to strengthen his lower back, he was medically cleared to resume his playing career.
"I just was blessed nothing major happened," Horn said. "I was in a neck brace for about a week and a half. I had rehab for about three months before I was able to do anything physical, like lifting weights and things like that.
"The hit was clean. It was the way I landed. ... I stopped, but my body weight kept going."
This fall, in his second season as a starter, Horn has completed 33 of 77 passes for 378 yards with two touchdowns and seven interceptions and has rushed for 562 yards and seven touchdowns on 97 carries.
Last year, he was the Jaguars' leading rusher with 677 yards and five touchdowns on 136 carries and completed 65 of 115 passes for 894 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
"I am definitely more cautious when I run the ball and try not to take any unnecessary hits," Horn said. "I still fight for yards when we need it, but I go out of bounds when I can. I catch myself fighting for extra yards, but I have to remind myself that I'm coming off of a major injury."
Bradley, which finished 4-6 last season, is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division heading into its home game against winless Canal Winchester on Friday, Oct. 11. According to coach Mike LoParo, Horn has been invaluable under center this season.
"Tommy has a lot of poise and he has grown up so much," LoParo said.
"He has made the big plays at big times for us, at critical points in the game."
In addition to the spinal-cord injury, Horn has had to deal with personal tragedy off the field, as his mother, Tami, succumbed to cancer in 2007. He lives with his godmother in Hilliard.
"Tommy has had every reason to do things the wrong way, losing his mother at (age) 12 and being raised by his godmother and getting the spinal injury," LoParo said. "Tommy has turned those situations into a positive and he has a lot of people looking out for him. He has a really big extended family and I think that has been great for him."
Horn said adversity has helped make him a better player. A sometimes tiresome adage preached by coaches has never rung more true.
"The coaches always say, 'Play every play like it's your last,'" Horn said.
"I always thought that was just talk, but I found out firsthand that that could be the case. Every play could be your last play, and that's why the game -- each play -- is more precious to me."