Alex Haddock-Thomas to Receive 2023 Jimmy Smothers Courage Award

Story by Stacy Long, Florence TimesDaily

Alex Haddock-Thomas, despite suffering through medical issue after medical issue from when he was days old through last summer, still keeps a smile on his face.

There was the heart surgery when he when he was a newborn and the broken back last November in an ATV accident.

But Haddock-Thomas was cleared to play sports when he was 3 years old. After the ATV accident, he recovered quickly enough to still play baseball this year at Deshler.

The junior didn’t miss a game.

“Every single day of my life, I think about it. Every single day,” he told the Florence TimesDaily this spring. “I just feel kinda like a blessing that I am here and I do the things that I do.”

Haddock-Thomas is this year’s winner of the Jimmy Smothers Courage Award, which will be presented Sunday in Jacksonville at the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s annual convention.

Haddock-Thomas, when he was five days old, was diagnosed with a heart birth defect where the two heart arteries are switched in position. His family expected a three-month stay at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. He was out after three weeks.

“The doctors couldn’t believe how quickly he was recovering from the surgery,” Kitty Thomas-Blazer, Alex’s mom, said. “They basically said they kinda had never seen that before.”

It didn’t stop Haddock-Thomas from a restless and adventurous youth.

He grew to love racing dirt bikes and ATVs competitively. The ATVs were a key part of his latest life chapter last fall.

Haddock-Thomas and some friends were riding four-wheelers in southern Tennessee. They saw a hill that they soon learned was too steep. A helmetless Haddock-Thomas learned the hard way.

“Me being me — no one wanted to climb the hill — I was like, ‘Well, I’ll do it,'” Haddock-Thomas recalled. “So I went to do it and got stuck at the top and just started rolling backwards. I flipped backwards off of (the ATV) and it rolled up over me and hit me.

“… I knew I had broke my back as soon as I was on the ground. The first words I said were, ‘My back’s broken, my back’s broken.'”

He suffered two broken vertebrae and needed seven staples to close a head gash. But, after being airlifted to a Huntsville hospital, he didn’t even need to stay overnight.

“(The doctors) said it was a miracle that it did not paralyze him,” Thomas-Blazer said. “They basically said he would be out for a while.

“Yet again, he recovered very quickly.”

His positive attitude recovered, too, and made him a lively part of Deshler’s baseball team.

“Alex is always joking around. It could be the most serious situation ever and Alex will crack a joke,” senior Reese Wilson said. “But everyone loves it. Alex is just one of those people that’s never on your nerves.”

Previous winners
2022: Jada Roberts, Pike Road (basketball, soccer)
2021: Emma Dempsey, Belgreen (softball, volleyball)
2020: No award due to COVID-19 pandemic
2019: Scott McAlpine, Haleyville (football, baseball)
2018: Anna Bryant, Pleasant Valley (volleyball)
2017: Ethan Hearn, Mobile Christian (football)
2016: Alex Wilcox, Brantley (softball)

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