Getting shot in the eye could have been the best thing that ever happened to Skyler Latchford.
It was in 2019. West Perry’s sophomore was chilling out with friends, and the group soon decided to have some fun with Airsoft guns.
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Before he knew it, Latchford had caught a BB in his eye, which quickly clotted. He then went to the emergency room for treatment.
What might not sound like more than a few typical teenage hijackings on paper was actually remarkable. Because since elementary school Latchford has been diagnosed with hemophilia. Basically, his blood is not clotting as it should, causing excessive bleeding with even minor injuries.
This condition, in essence, prevented Latchford, an imposing boy for his age, from playing high-level contact sports, having to give up football, the sport most suited to his large body, at a young age. No doctor would sign.
But his eye had clotted. Latchford had his blood tested and had an operation. When he woke up from the procedure the vision returned, he turned to his mother with a question.
“Can I play football? “
Latchford was diagnosed with his condition of mild hemophilia, as many are, with complications from routine surgery as a standard grade school tonsillectomy revealed the condition.
Although the discovery did not immediately prevent him from playing football – he was allowed to play at the peewee and midget level – the doctors did not agree to play at higher, more physical levels.
Always taller than children his age, Latchford tried to find other sports to play. He wanted to try wrestling, but couldn’t be cleared. He wasn’t nimble enough to thrive in basketball. Baseball has become the benchmark and it has done well. But he never lost his fondness for the grill.
“I have always been taller than everyone else, and I knew [football] would be a sport I could be good at, ”Latchford said. “But I had to listen to the doctors.”
He wasn’t the only one who wanted to see him on the pitch. West Perry football coach Bob Boden, who previously coached wrestling in college for the district, remembered Latchford when he considered the sport.
Every time he saw Latchford, he asked him if the situation had changed.
“We had been trying for years [to get him to play]”Boden said.” We would see him in the hallway and ask him. And he would always say ‘I still can’t be cleared.’
“Finally, he came to see me one day and said, ‘Coach, I think I can be cleared.'”
Make the commitment
When Latchford’s blood work returned after the airsoft incident, he was not found to be free from hemophilia. But it was determined the condition was less severe than initially thought, enough that, rather than categorically denying his permission to play football, his parents had a choice.
They could sign it themselves, accepting the risk of Skyler playing with his condition which turned out not to be as bad as initially thought.
It was not an easy choice.
“Am I going to be okay, if something happens am I going to feel guilty?” Skyler’s father Troy Latchford said. “So I said, look buddy, I’m going to leave this in your hands. How do you feel. It’s your body, I know there’s a lot of underlying things that you can’t see, and Neither do I. But I’ll let you.
Skyler jumped on it. But the signing came with a condition. He had to get in shape.
Heading into the summer leading up to this junior year, Latchford was sitting at 6-1 / 1 and 340 pounds.
He hit hard at the gym. He lifted weights. He worked as a landscaper.
“[My parents] say if you can prove to us [you’re committed] and you train, condition your body where you have the most muscle, we’ll let you play, ”Latchford said. “And I took that and ran with it.”
By the end of the summer, he had lost almost 100 pounds.
Achieve the goal
A transition to football when you haven’t played in fourth grade isn’t easy.
But Latchford’s size and his newly built muscles made things a little easier.
Boden and Latchford rested first, not wanting to physically overwhelm him. He started playing junior college defensive tackle.
It quickly became clear that West Perry could use it. He began to get university representatives
Now he’s just part of the team. He’s also playing on the offensive line, a move he suggested to Boden and vowed to further condition this offseason.
“It’s cool whenever someone can finally do what they’re passionate about”
There were no complications other than occasional bruising – he bruises more easily due to the condition.
“There are times when I’m just like ‘I’m actually playing’,” Latchford said. “I never thought I would be able to play high school.”
And he plays well. He is sixth on the team in tackles and has 2.5 tackles for a loss. He played a key role in the Mustangs major upheaval against Mechanicsburg a few weeks ago.
Equally touching for Troy, more than two years away from having to make this fateful decision after this lozenge struck Skyler’s eye.
“Every time he steps onto the pitch, I get goosebumps. Every time the announcers say he’s made a tackle, every time I see his teammates come up to him and punch him or pat him on the back because he’s doing a good job work… it’s worth it.