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A New Lease

Sunday, January 25, 2009



Courtesy of Brett Orzechowski, New Haven Register Staff

NEW HAVEN — He speaks in the third person, as if he just passed himself on the street. Friends and family speak of Gavin Blades the same way. The Gavin we recruited. The Gavin in the hospital bed. The Gavin we knew.

He sits in a coffee shop in the shadow of Yale's Old Campus and describes the old Gavin as arrogant, maybe a bit too confident, perhaps too much of a perfectionist. His first semester at Yale was filled with the usual highlights and disappointments of a first-year athlete. The old Gavin was a midfielder from Ohio with a penchant for flash. He started a few matches, watched a few more, and then split time.

Brian Tompkins says the old Gavin was on his way to becoming a dominant player for the Ivy League program. The Yale coach hoped one day maturity would catch up to the skill level, but that the edge would never wear off. Dr. Ed Blades, Gavin's father, says in his family, anything short of perfection isn't good enough. His oldest son lives the same way.

Gavin now looks in the mirror and notices subtle changes to his body. He never runs his hand over his head but sees where a third of his skull was removed. He knows his right leg and the left side of his upper body will never grow the same way. He sees shadows but is blind in his left eye.

And even after his best friend Mike Beverstock found him unconscious, his left arm twisted over his head, blood pouring from his mouth with his feet and snowboard buried in four feet of soft Utah snow, Gavin believed he would play soccer at Yale again.

That's when the old Gavin met the new Gavin.

To read Brett's entire story on Gavin from the New Haven Register, click here.

- A.S.