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A Quarterback Scores Big

November 05, 1987|ROB FERNAS | Times Staff Writer

Lou Budde had to master a set of basic skills before he could play quarterback for Miraleste High School's football team.

Running the option and reading defenses would come later.

First, Budde had to relearn how to walk, read and carry on a conversation.

His ability to perform those simple functions was impaired by Severe Closed Head Injury. Budde suffered brain damage in a 1985 auto accident in which he was pinned inside a pickup truck after it flipped over on a winding stretch of Palos Verdes Drive East near the Miraleste campus.

Budde, a passenger in the truck driven by a teammate, doesn't recall many details of that night. What he does remember is the love, strength and support provided by family and friends during rehabilitation. He particularly remembers the motivation from his father, Don.

"My dad would push me," he said. "He would set goals for me to strive for. When I came home in a wheelchair, he would try to make me walk. Instead of crawling to the television, he would make me walk."

Those who know Budde say the Miraleste senior deserves much of the credit for his recovery. Last season, less than a year after the accident, he was playing varsity quarterback.

"It's one of the best recoveries we've seen from that type of injury," said Dr. Maureen McMorrow, director of the Pediatric Head Injury Program at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, where Budde underwent therapy.

"You could tell that he had a lot of inner strength. If we could have them all turn out like him, our job would be a lot easier."

Said former Miraleste football Coach Gary Kimbrell: "It's like I told our team after spring practice, 'Hey, if we had a team of Lou Buddes, we're CIF champs.' "

Budde won't be involved in a CIF championship this season. Miraleste is 1-7 overall and 1-2 in Pioneer League play heading into Friday's 2:45 p.m. game against visiting Centennial. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder has played competently this season, but he is not a standout. His strengths are in less tangible areas.

"He is probably--and I have no idea whether it had anything to do with what happened to him in the past--one of the toughest kids, mentally and physically, that I've seen in a long time," said Miraleste Athletic Director Tom Graves, who replaced Kimbrell as coach this season.

"He has his shortcomings as a quarterback. He's just an average thrower and has real poor feet. But he's a leader. The kids look up to him. They know he's the guy who's going to take charge out there."

Budde played on the sophomore team when he entered Troy Jankovich's pickup truck on the night of Oct. 10, 1985.

Budde, Jankovich and Drake Wesson, football teammates at Miraleste, were on their way home from a team dinner when Budde changed the radio station because he didn't like the song that was playing.

His teammates protested. Wesson tried to get the song back but had trouble relocating the station. Jankovich, who was driving, reached down to tune the radio, and the truck veered into the curb. In his haste to correct the error, Jankovich said he overcompensated, turned the steering wheel and flipped the jacked-up truck.

Jankovich climbed out of the passenger's window and helped pull Wesson out the driver's side. Budde, sitting in the middle, was thrown halfway out the driver's window, his face scraping the pavement as the truck sat upside down.

"I remember him lying there and blood all over," Jankovich said. "I was scared. The roof was crushed on top of the seat and the steering wheel. I tried to get Lou out, but he was stuck in there."

Firemen extracted Budde. At Harbor-UCLA Medical Center he began the fight for his life and his senses. Neither Jankovich nor Wesson was seriously injured.

After being in a coma for nearly a week, Budde's condition was similar to that of a stroke victim. The right side of his body was paralyzed, he slurred words and had trouble remembering. His right thumb was broken in three places.

Perhaps worst, at least to his mother, he had no facial expression.

"It's a very discouraging thing to see your loved one, who had a twinkle in his eye, suddenly not have it," said Nancy Budde. "That's sad."

For Kimbrell, the incident brought memories of a personal tragedy. His brother, John, died following a car accident in 1974.

"I remember going to see Lou in the hospital and being just completely depressed," Kimbrell said. "I almost felt like crying."

Nancy and Don Budde maintained an around-the-clock vigil in their son's hospital room. They played tapes of Lou's friends and favorite music in an effort to stimulate him. Nancy took a leave from her job as a teacher to spend nearly all of her time at the hospital.

"I couldn't believe how strong his parents were," Kimbrell said.

During the early stages of Lou's recovery, Nancy was educated about head injuries. She was told not to expect too much, but the family--Lou is the second-youngest of four brothers--remained optimistic.

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