As seniors and best friends who are like brothers, this was already going to be a special football season for Aaron Bice and Jakob Looney of the Hurst L.D. Bell Blue Raiders.
Now, as a season that almost wasn’t, it has become even more special — as has life itself.
In mid-January they were riding together to the Blue Raiders football banquet. They didn’t make it to the event, and it came perilously close to being the last car ride either would ever take.
Bice was driving. He dropped his cell phone and looked down only for a moment. That was all it took.
“It was one of those wrong place, wrong time things,” Bice said. “I looked down and next thing you know, you’re in a tree.”
The car was totaled. Fortunately, they were not.
A few more inches one way or another and we’re not here today.
The car went into a yard at such an angle that they literally wound up in part of a tree. They also ended up in the hospital, but they made it — and with some new perspectives.
As a result of the accident, Bice had a couple of holes in his spleen and was hospitalized for a few days. Looney suffered a concussion, and both had numerous cuts and bruises.
“We could have broken our spines. We could have died,” Looney said, pausing to reflect on his feeling of helplessness in the accident. “A few more inches one way or another and we’re not here today.”
Bell head coach Mike Glaze remembers well the night of the accident and the rush of fear that swept through him upon receiving the news. Glaze is a coach who is close to his players on the field and in life, and the thought of a couple of those lives ending early still makes him shudder.
“It was terrifying,” Glaze said. “I keep thinking how close we were to losing them, two members of our Bell family.”
The incident has also made Glaze take a harder look at life beyond the football field.
“Sometimes you get lost in the big picture. It’s not just about wins and losses,” he said. “Life is fragile, give it everything you’ve got while you’re here, no matter what it is you’re doing.”
As for this football season, the duo realize fate was kind enough to allow them to be wearing Bell uniforms together one final time. Bice, a wide receiver, leads the team in catches with 11, and Looney is a backup quarterback.
They often think back to when they met in the eighth grade. They knew who each other was when they both attended Central Junior High, but ironically their friendship developed after Bice transferred to Bedford Junior High.
“My girlfriend had set up a surprise dinner for my birthday,” Looney said. “Bice was there as a friend of a friend. We met and hit it off and have been inseparable ever since.”
To which Bice laughed and added, “I got dragged there. You never know where life is going to lead you.”
But wherever it takes them, if it involves driving, their cell phones are nowhere near the driver’s seat. In fact, when they travel together now, the passenger is in charge of putting the cell phones away in the back seat so they can both focus on the road.
“You can always answer or send that message when the car is parked and you’re out,” Bice said. “Phones and driving do not go well together. We learned that, and we’re lucky enough to still be alive to tell others.
“It just takes that split second for the unthinkable to happen. No phone call in the world is worth that.”