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Jesuit special teams coach rebounds from emergency heart surgery in a big way

By LINDSAY LIQUORI, BRIGHT HOUSE SPORTS NETWORK
Last Updated: Monday, January 12, 2015, 5:55 PM

“I should have had a massive coronary,” said kicking guru Tom Feely. “It was a miracle that I was still alive.”

One day last fall Jesuit special teams coach Tom Feely, the God Father of Feely kicking felt chest pain. What he thought was heartburn provoked a trip to the cardiologist.

“Looked into the arteries and decided I needed to have surgery, open heart surgery,” said Feely.

“We grew up with a dad who was always so competitive, such a fighter,” said John Feely. “I knew he’d be okay.”

“They told me at the time when I went in that I was going to have six bi-passes or that I needed six bypasses,” said Tom Feely. “I had never even heard of that. The most I had heard of was four. Later on I found out they only did three bypasses.”

On Friday September 26th, the 62-year old, underwent emergency heart surgery. Three of his six sons by his side, including Chicago Bears kicker Jay, who flew in from Arizona.

“When you hear emergency heart surgery, your first thought is that you might lose somebody; that they might not make it” said Jay Feely. “That’s a scary thought and I was upset that this could be the end.”

“It’s going to be fine. Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal,” said Feely. “Jay was on the plane and here well before I went in for surgery.”
Needless to say Feely missed Jesuit’s game against Newsome that night.

“That’s the first game I’ve ever missed,” said Feely. “In 42 seasons I don’t think I’ve ever missed another game. That was the hardest.”

Feely couldn’t be held back for long.

“I found myself having to coach even thought I am still in bed in the hospital,” said Feely.

“He really wasn’t away,” said John Feely. “He was watching the game. He was breaking down film. He was talking to the guys. Guys were visiting him the day after his surgery.”

“We found out that surgery went well and I was still getting emails,” said Jesuit coach Matt Thompson. “He was breaking everything down, the films of the other teams. So, he was still working from a hospital bed.”

Feely spent five games at home while recovering. His triumphant return to the sideline came against arch rival Tampa Catholic in November.

“I wasn’t going to miss that game and fortunately they gave me the clearance to start coaching just that week,” said Tom Feely.

“He couldn’t speak really loud at the end of practice, but every kid was totally glued on him,” said Thompson. “In his weak voice he talked about important the TC game was and it was pretty inspiring.”

The biggest side effect of his surgery, Feely lost his voice. He improvised.

“I recorded on my cell phone my voice when I was strong in the morning,” said Feely. “Ya know, calling for the teams I needed.”
It seems appropriate, during his first game back; the Tigers beat TC on a last-second field goal.

“We started being more prepared for the games,” said Jesuit place kicker Brendan Gonzalez. “I remember coaches and players would come up to me and Coach Feely was right by my side having complete confidence in me the whole time.”

“Having Coach Feely actually guide that, having a specific special teams coach, it really kinda showed how he brings together more unity and more of a purpose,” said Jesuit senior long snapper Nick Cox.

“The 50-0, the 25-0, you don’t remember those games,” said Thompson. “You remember the last second kick. I mean it was perfect for him. It was perfect for Jesuit.”

“Obstacles will come into your life, both in athletics as well as in life in general,” said Jay Feely. “You can’t make excuses to not overcome them. You have to find a way no matter what and that’s what he’s always done. That’s what he did with this heart condition.”

How are you able to appreciate the little things in life now after everything you’ve gone through?

“I so appreciate that and know how temporary it is,” said Feely. “We just don’t realize that. We take our health for granted and we just don’t realize that life is a fragile thing. You can lose it just like that. So, being on the north side of dirt is something I am very happy about.”