Brandon Allen's phone has been chiming a lot over the last month. Players, parents, fans, and everyone in between want to know what the prospects for football season look like amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn't out of the ordinary then when Christian Pillay, a rising senior on his North Buncombe football team, inquired about upcoming workouts.
It was surprising, however, when Pillay then told Allen he was in the hospital with pneumonia in both lungs. Then the texts stopped. Allen finally got in touch with Christian's mother, April, and that's when he learned the situation had taken a drastic turn for the worst.
"You can tell in the voice of a mom or a dad when you're talking about their kid, you know how serious the situation is," Allen said. The situation was bad. Pillay had been put on a ventilator and was in a medically-induced coma.
"You care so much for these kids. They may not be mine, but they're mine," Allen choked out through tears. "During that whole process, I'm thinking, 'Was I a good enough example?'"
Here's where a little background information on Pillay is needed. He's a dirt bike rider, so injuries aren't anything new. Before the last football season, he was told he'd be ineligible for the 2019 season. However, he didn't pack up and start looking towards 2020.
"Most people when they're told that, 'Hey we're sorry. You're not going to be able to play this year,' they're going to walk away and you hope that they come back," Allen explained. "This kid never ever missed anything."
So with that attitude in mind, you may understand how Pillay was able to battle through the terrifying setback. "I was terrified," Pillay said, now recovering at home. "They told me everything that had happened like while I was on the tubes and everything and it freaked me out."
Medical concerns kept Pillay from being cleared to play sports until just five or six years ago. He's made a habit of widening eyes in the face of adversity. "It's how I was raised. It's just the commitment and my heart just to keep pushing and keep on going and fighting for what I want," he stated.
The NCHSAA cleared schools to begin conditioning programs for sports teams on June 15th. The Blackhawks will be among the many groups taking the step back towards a semblance of normalcy. Pillay plans to attend the very first workout.
"He could take the easy road. He could say, 'You know what coach I've been in the hospital, I'm pretty bad off.' And be like, 'I'll see you August first,'" mused Allen. "But that's not his makeup, that's not his character, that's not who he is."
As for how active he'll be on that first day back? Depends on whom you ask.
"I know I'm not going to be able to go a hundred percent because my body is definitely not a hundred percent yet," asserted Pillay. "But I'm going to go as hard as I possibly can."
Allen may have something to say about that. "I want him to just watch for now," he laughed. "Just seeing him and him being there will be enough for me."