During halftime of the Calaveras vs. Escalon junior varsity football game on Aug. 30, members of the Calaveras High School’s varsity squad hit the field to get loose before their game. The quarterbacks threw passes to the receivers, which lasted the duration of halftime.
There was one key player who wasn’t taking part in the pregame warmups and that was Calaveras’ senior quarterback Nolan Dart.
With only a few minutes remaining in the JV game, the Calaveras varsity team made its way down from the locker room, through the stands at Frank Meyer Field and stopped behind the goal post, which is in front of the scoreboard. The Calaveras players stood side-by-side, but once again, Dart was nowhere to be found.
Just before taking the field, the players looked up to the stands and saw No. 30 making his way down from the locker room. The Calaveras players clapped their hands as Dart ran across the track and joined them under the goal post.
Dart went on to complete four passes for 58 yards and one touchdown in a 24-7 home loss to Escalon. But the fact that Dart even stepped foot on the field, let alone played the entire game at quarterback and defensive back, was a miracle in itself.
For the past seven years, Dart has been a victim of extreme migraines. Just hours before he was supposed to play his first varsity game at quarterback, he was hit with a migraine attack.
“I was taping up Jonny Lozano’s wrists for the game and all of a sudden, I couldn’t get it right and kept messing up,” Dart said. “That’s when I knew that something was up and I started going numb and I knew it was happening.”
Dart’s migraines can come as often as once a week, or as infrequently as once every few months. He never knows when a migraine will start and doesn’t exactly know what causes them. Dart does, however, know the effects of them.
He starts to feel numbness in his hands, arms, legs and feet and becomes disoriented. After that, his vision begins to go. It may start with being a little blurry, but by its peak, everything is dark and Dart can only see shapes. His vision starts to return after an hour, but that’s when the headache begins to kick in, as does nausea. Before Dart was able to leave the locker room, he vomited numerous times.
Once the symptoms started happening, Dart took medication and sat in the coach’s room, away from his teammates and other distractions. It wasn’t until his team already left the locker room that Dart felt he could strap up and play. But it wasn’t just Dart’s decision, as he, along with head coach Doug Clark and Dart’s parents, were all in communication.
“Knowing him and his background with this and knowing his family, we were in communication with his mom and dad, so this wasn’t going to be a coach Clark decision,” Clark said after Calaveras’ practice Tuesday evening in San Andreas. “We let him go through the process and as we got closer to game time, if he felt capable and if his parents felt confident and if everybody was on board, we were going to give him a shot. Obviously, with a close eye on him, if something looks wrong, he was coming out.”
But Dart didn’t come out. He played the entire game and proved that he is a true leader.
“It meant everything to me,” Dart said about playing against Escalon. “I knew that I had to play. I love football, so I needed to be out there with my boys.”
But before Dart threw a pass, he had to make the long walk from the Calaveras locker room and down the bleachers. Seeing his teammates clap for him as he joined them on the field was a moment he may never forget.
“I loved it,” Dart said. “I knew that they wanted me out there with them and it felt really good.”
Clark has never questioned Dart’s toughness or love for the game. And if for some reason anyone ever does, the first-year coach will tell them about the game against Escalon.
“His stock just skyrocketed in my opinion,” Clark said. “You don’t get kids with character like that much anymore. Seeing him before the game, my heart just sank. Not because I would have lost my starting quarterback, but this is his senior year and it’s his first home game. He’s a competitor and I knew he wanted to be out there. So, for him to battle through and to come out and have that performance, was just unbelievable. He’s the epitome of what you want in a student, an athlete, a son or a son-in-law. He’s someone who is going to battle to go through adversity. Nolan has always been a kid who is going to give everything he has to whatever he does.”