In all respects, Pike County native Dan McNamee was your All-American teenager. However, as you will learn during this series, sometimes your destiny turns out to be nothing like what you expected it to be.
“It’s not a sin to get knocked down, it's a sin to stay down,” said Wayne Jamison, retired football coach at Bridgeport High School.
“Bad things happen to good people and what's important is what we do,” said Mike Martin, physical therapist.
“Regardless of the situation we're in, we have to keep on keeping on because there are people who are dependent on us, who are looking up to us,” said Chris McNamee, Dan’s brother.
At some point in our lives, we've all heard things like this - sayings meant to comfort and inspire us in times of challenges, but there are some instances these mantras were never designed to mend. What happened to 15-year-old-boy on September 1, 1995, on a small town football field in West Virginia was such an occasion.
“Tough times don't last, tough people do. Dan McNamee I discovered is a tough person,” said Dave Cisar, retired football coach at Magnolia High School.
Daniel Reeves McNamee was born on November 8th, 1979 in Pikeville, Kentucky. He was the youngest of five brothers; his father, Jerry, was a coal broker; his mother Carolyn , a registered nurse. But before Dan could even walk, the McNamee name had become synonymous in the area with with athletics.
“When we came down here we got them involved in sports to keep them active, and it kind of took off from there,” said Jerry McNamee.
And took off they did, winning multiple football state championships at Pikeville High School, excelling in baseball as well. Dan says he knew from his earliest memories, it was a legacy he was destined to advance.
“I don't remember ever not playing with a ball or having a ball in my hand or ever not having that feeling. I think I was born with it,” Dan said.
“I remember from a young age, he just kind of had a natural gift. He had something you can't really coach,” Chris McNamee said.
“I know there would have been colleges standing in line to get a hold of him because he could play any sport as far as that goes. He just had that ability,” Jamison said.
At the age of 10, Jerry's job required Dan and his family to move to Bridgeport, West Virginia. It was a new school, new faces: not always easy for a young man to adjust to, but Dan had an ace up his sleeve.
“The first recess we played kickball and I was the last one picked, and after we played the next day, I was the first one picked, so that was good. That’s how I bonded with them,” Dan said.
Kickball, of course, was only the beginning. By the time he was a high school freshman, Dan’s baseball abilities caught the radar of the major league baseball team.
“He had had a private tryout with the Atlanta Braves, and they actually expressed a lot of interest in Dan and they told him they were going to continue to watch his career and if he did well, they were interested in drafting him right out of high school,” Martin said.
You would think one sport would be enough for a young man, but Dan lived for all sports, which is why in the summer of 1995, immediately after winning a baseball state championship, Dan was on the football field, under the leadership of a legendary coach, Wayne Jamison.
“He's one of those young men that you kind of dream about getting and you don't really get a whole lot of them.” Jamison said.
Coach Jamison almost never started sophomores, but 6'5, 230 pound Dan McNamee was different.
“I’m just thinking holy cow! And I wasn't sure whether Dan was a sophomore, junior or senior. He looked more like a doggone senior or maybe a senior in college as big as he was, as stout as he was and as intelligent as he was,” Cisar said.
Which is why on September first of that year, Dan suited up for battle for the season-opener against Magnolia High School. It was his first and last game of his career, and a day that changed everything.
“We were dominating the game all the way through,” Jamison said.
“Dan had an interception, some good tackles, and then one bad tackle,” Jerry McNamee said.
“Our play was called ‘Gun-Flanker-Fox’,” Cisar said.
I remember thinking I had the play read and I could've intercepted the pass but I wanted to put a lick on him. I wanted to hit him hard,” Dan said.
“And the next thing you know is, Kaboom. Wham,” Cisar said.
And with that single sound, everything changed...