KISSIMMEE, Fla. - The 50-yard line on Gateway High School’s football field is painted "54" for senior offensive lineman Thomas Stephens.
Stephens was hit by the car on the way home from work a week ago.
Now, the Panthers are dedicating their season to their teammate.
Stephens is described as "tough as nails."
"I was shocked. He’s one of the hardest workers, toughest people out here on the field," senior Omar Martinez said.
"In my mind, this is Thomas, probably bruise here, bruise there, maybe a broken arm or something. It’s Thomas so I’m thinking he’ll be here in the afternoon time," Gateway head coach Marlon Roberts said. "I called one of my assistant principals and we found out it was more serious than we thought it was."
Stephens is in the ICU on a breathing machine, but his teammates are hoping for the best.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are adjusting to an o-line without one of their veteran leaders.
"It feels like a huge gap in our offensive, a huge missing piece. He’s such a big part of our line. He’s one of our better linemen," senior quarterback Edward Dyer said.
Stephens played for Gateway since freshman year. He’s one of only two seniors to do so.
"It’s weird. He’s always by my side because he plays right next to me throughout all my four years. It’s different, definitely," Martinez said.
Gateway hopes to punch out its first win of the season Friday night and will do so with Stephens in their hearts.
"We just want to come out and dedicate this season, dedicate our play to him. We know how much football means to him," Dyer said.
The school plans on having a flag made with Stephens’ picture and will say "Thomas Strong."
They’ve also raised money, which will go to help with hospital costs.