GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A local football player who was shot while playing the game he loves said he wouldn’t be alive if not for his shoulder pads.
Channel 2′s Tom Jones talked to Russell Rusty Duffee, who was caught in the middle of gunfire while waiting to go back onto the field during a semi pro game in Gwinnett County.
Duffee said it all began after some trash talk got out of hand.
“In semi-pro football, things get a little testy,” Duffee said.
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The 24-year-old almost lost his life after he was shot in the neck Saturday night at Lenora Park. The Clayton County Spartans were taking a beating from the Georgia Falcons when tempers flared
Police said a masked man ran on the field and started shooting at two people in a car. The people in the car fired back.
Duffee, who is the team’s center, was on the sideline with his 5-year-old not far away when he was hit.
Doctors told Duffee that he most likely wouldn’t have survived except that he was wearing his shoulder pads.
“They actually said that’s probably one of the things that slowed it down and probably saved my life,” Duffee said. “The only thing I remember is gunfire, falling, and then sky and light.”
The gunmen got away. The bullet is still lodged in Duffee’s neck and too delicate to take out. He broke two vertebrae in his neck and suffered from nerve damage and he’ll be out of work for six to eight weeks.
Duffee’s surgeons told him he is lucky to be alive.
“They all told me that I was a walking miracle,” Duffee said.
Duffee said he doesn’t want the gunman locked up.
“I’d rather sit face to face with him, shake hands and say, You know what? I forgive you. Let’s do something. Let’s make this life the best we can,’” Duffee said.
Police are still investigating.
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help pay for his medical care.
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