As the Navy football team returned to the practice field Monday in preparation for its Dec. 8 game against rival Army, Coach Ken Niumatalolo and his players were thinking about one of their own fighting for his life in a Miami hospital after being seriously injured in a Thanksgiving night car accident.
Ralph Montalvo, a freshman who recently had made it from the scout team to the travel roster as the third-string quarterback, is listed in critical condition after being placed in a medically-induced coma at the Kendall Regional Medical Center, according to a spokesman for the hospital. Niumatalolo, who visited with Montalvo's family Saturday, said the player had a setback Monday.
"We just don't know ...we just pray for him, there's nothing we can do, the doctors there are doing the best they can. When I went on Saturday he was doing well, he took a slight turn [for the worse] today, didn't do as well today, we continue to wait for updates," Niumatalolo said.
Said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ivin Jasper, "We're struggling here. He's just a great kid and you hate to see something like that happen to good people. We're keeping him in our prayers. All of this happened for a reason, the good Lord has plans for him, he's going to pull through."
Dr. Jeff Fair, Navy's director of sports medicine, said doctors at the academy who have been in touch with the medical staff attending to Montalvo were told that an infection had caused an increase in the player's blood pressure.
"I think they're still pretty guarded, I think they just have to wait to see how he does, I don't know if they know how long they're going to have to keep this induced coma up, " Fair said. "He's going to be in the hospital quite awhile, I know that."
A spokesman for the Pinewood, Fla., police department said Monday that the investigation into the accident was ongoing and could not comment about it. According to Florida law, a police report is not made public for the first 60 days after an incident occurs.
Niumatalolo said he has been told by family members that Montalvo and a friend went to get something to eat after his flight home Thursday was delayed. The friend, who was driving, turned one street too soon, thinking he was on a main thoroughfare. Instead, he drove his car into a house at the end of a dark, fog-shrouded street. Niumatalolo said he heard Montalvo's friend was also in the hospital in a coma.
Junior nose guard Travis Bridges, who played against Montalvo in high school, learned of the accident in a text from one of Navy's assistant coaches and went to the hospital from his home in Hollywood, Fla., on Friday.
"It was kind of like a flashback, because I had a friend who passed away from a car accident," said Bridges, one of a handful of Navy players in the area who went to the hospital. "Just seeing him in the bed, it was pretty hard seeing him like that."
Sophomore slotback Ryan Williams-Jenkins, who was in Fort Lauderdale for the break visiting his father, said that several members of the team held a prayer vigil for Montalvo when they returned to the academy Sunday.
"His mom and dad said, 'Just pray.' They're real spiritual," Williams-Jenkins said Monday. "They said we should keep him in our prayers and stay positive. They said they don't want this to be a distraction because Rafi wanted to be out here more than anything. They said 'Win for Rafi, do this for Rafi.' "
The uniform Montalvo would have worn for the Army game in Philadelphia has been sent to the player's family.