Apr 252007
Authors: Emily Polak

Four-year-old Caden Thomas has seen harder hits than some of CSU’s sidelined football players.

The Thomas family attended the Rams’ spring scrimmage Saturday at Hughes Stadium. And what started as a fun family outing, turned into a media frenzy.

Thomas was the subject of reports on several national news outlets, including the “Today Show” and “The Early Show,” after Rams receiver George Hill smashed into Thomas, who was standing on the sidelines with his father. The crash bloodied Thomas’ face, sending him to the hospital.

“I think the player is the real hero,” said Rae Kern, Thomas’s grandmother. She said that his injuries would have been much worse if it was not for Hill, who cradled the toddler, protecting him from a concrete barrier.

Thomas received 30 stitches on Saturday and was released the same evening with no indication of neurological damage.

Hill said on the “Today Show” Wednesday that he was thinking of his 2-year-old daughter when he pulled Caden close to his body.

“We’d like to thank George for a job well done,” said Caden’s father, Mike Thomas, as he gave Hill a pat on the back on the “Today Show.”

“We’re excited that the young boy wasn’t injured,” said Gary Ozzello, spokesman for the CSU athletics department.

Thomas was standing on the sidelines of Sonny Lubick field in a zone that is off limits to those under age 18 during regular season games.

For the scrimmage, though, families and youngsters were allowed to hang close to the athletes while they did what they do best /- hit.

“This game had much more of a relaxed atmosphere,” Ozzello said.

Near the end of the game the Thomas family took advantage of the opportunity to get up close and personal with the players.

“We just got a little too close to the action,” Mike Thomas said on the “Today Show.”

Ozzello, who has been at the brunt of a year of bad publicity for CSU athletics, said this time, all of the media attention is a positive thing.

“In light of last week’s events, the news show editors and producers are looking for a feel-good story,” he said.

Journalism and technical communication department chair Garrett O’Keefe agreed with Ozzello.

“It (media attention) could be because it’s good to have a feel-good story about a college campus after last week,” O’Keefe said. “I’m surprised it made it that far but it is overall a positive thing.”

The photos and video were warm and touching, O’Keefe said, which adds media value.

Patrick Plaisance, a CSU journalism professor who specializes in media ethics, said valuable footage and photos catapulted the story to a national audience.

“We are a visual culture,” Plaisance said. “This touched a lot of lives because people can relate to things like this.when that intersection is caught on tape, you bet there will be a lot of attention.”

Staff writer Emily Polak can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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