Mike Suchy. Austin Jensen.
Two Bradenton young men whose lives are headed in different directions.
Their dreams, too.
On Thursday, Suchy (soo-kee), a Southeast High School senior shortstop, signed a scholarship with Florida Gulf Coast University at a festive ceremony in Southeast’s SETV studio.
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A major league prospect, the June draft beckons as well.
He turned 18 on Friday.
His future is so bright, Mike Suchy needs shades.
Austin Jensen could use some, too.
It’s hard to hide a breaking heart, even for a tough 22-year-old like him.
At an emotional Friday meeting, Jensen, a senior at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, told teammates his football career, forged so passionately as an all-state Manatee High School linebacker, is over.
There will be no next season.
There will be no NFL camp for him.
Denied medical clearance by a neurologist for FAU, Jensen’s courageous resurgence from near fatal injuries suffered in a car accident in Boca 14 months ago came up short.
Mike Suchy. Austin Jensen.
Two boys made of the right stuff.
What a difference 24 hours made.
The fickleness of fame.
The fragility of life.
The sudden contrast in the arc of their lives.
I saw Mike Suchy grow from a gangly boy into a strapping lad.
A rangy linebacker for the Seminoles as an underclassman, he decided to concentrate on baseball his final year in school.
The move raised his stock in the eyes of baseball scouts.
In small towns like ours, the June draft creates a unique excitement.
If only for a few years, a young man joins the national pastime.
Mike Suchy is on the cusp of that.
A part of us will go with him should it come to pass.
Just as it was with Austin Jensen.
We reveled in his play, teaming with Josh McCoy and Ray Morris, great kids and great Hurricanes linebackers in 2005 and 2006.
It was a joy to see them at the Shake Pit, where McCoy and Morris took turns flaming burgers and Jensen signed his FAU scholarship.
Then they were off to college.
A horrific car accident on Feb. 13, 2010, brought Jensen back into our embrace.
Ejected from a tumbling vehicle driven by a teammate on the way to FAU’s football banquet, he should’ve been DOA.
Two skull fractures.
Bleeding on the brain stem.
A bruised front temporal lobe.
Four pelvic fractures.
Abrasions all over his body.
Anyone else would’ve been killed.
Yet Jensen survived, a testament not only to his physical conditioning, but his will to live, his fighting spirit.
Aided by our medical community, MHS coaches and the prayers of friends and strangers alike, he mounted a renaissance cheered by all, even those who never saw No. 44 excel under those Friday night lights at Hawkins Stadium.
Austin Jensen was our Comeback Kid.
His disappointment runs deep, but it won’t last forever.
He’s got too much going for him.
Jensen will get his degree in exercise science in December, then pursue a master’s.
A sprinter for MHS with one more year of college eligibility, he’s considering competing as a decathlete for FAU, which has no track program yet.
He’ll be a one-man team.
No more football? OK.
Everything Austin Jensen overcame to reach this point is what really counts in life.
He set a powerful example for us all.
Including Mike Suchy.
Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.