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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Arthur Hemingway dies at 48; was hit by car and paralyzed as a USC football recruit

By Claire Noland

March 1, 2009

Arthur Hemingway, a 1978 USC football recruit who was paralyzed after a speeding car struck him but who persevered and earned his college degree 18 years later, has died. He was 48.

Hemingway was found dead Thursday at his Oceanside home, USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said Saturday. The cause has not been determined.

Hemingway was a promising fullback, projected to be a big star at a school known for its running backs.

But that all ended on the evening of Aug. 23, 1978. Only three days into training camp, the 18-year-old freshman left his dorm room to get a bite to eat at a nearby hamburger stand. As he was walking back to campus, a speeding car that had been stolen by its 17-year-old driver careened onto the sidewalk, chased by a police car with blazing lights and blaring siren. The stolen car slammed into Hemingway, sending him flying. He landed unconscious.

Hemingway was hospitalized for four weeks while in a coma. He had severe internal and head injuries and a broken leg.

"We really thought he was going to have a great career," then-USC coach John Robinson told The Times on Saturday. "He just had everything going for him. It was very tragic."

The expectation that Hemingway, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound blocking back of Samoan descent, would follow in the footsteps of other Trojans standouts was crushed.

"When he was recruited, everybody looked at him to be the next Mosi Tatupu, and he had all the attributes and skills to be that," Ronnie Lott, the former USC safety who went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, said Saturday.

Hemingway's story could have ended with the accident. But by force of will he wrote another chapter in his life.

He underwent more than 20 operations, including two brain surgeries, but never completely regained his equilibrium. He used a wheelchair, and his speech was slurred.

"I kept trying to find my inspiration," Hemingway told then-Times columnist Mike Downey in 1996. "Most of my life, I had known exactly what I wanted to do. I was always active. There were places I expected to go, things I intended to do. That all changed. Going back to college . . . that was a challenge I had to answer, the same way I once had to answer a 250-pound lineman coming at me."

Progress was slow, rehabilitation painful. But in 1991, Hemingway returned to USC on a scholarship from the university's Swim with Mike program for physically challenged athletes. In 1996, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in English. He later earned a master's degree in education from USC.

Hemingway was born in Hawaii on March 14, 1960. He spent most of his youth in Oceanside, where he was a star football player and popular student at Oceanside High School. His father, Arthur Hemingway Sr., was a Marine Corps master sergeant and military attache. His mother, Loloto, raised Hemingway and his two sisters and younger brother. He is survived by his siblings.

After the accident, Hemingway returned to Oceanside and over the years helped coach the football teams at Oceanside High School and at Ranch Buena Vista High in nearby Vista.

He also established a foundation in his name that awards scholarships to disabled students who want to attend college.

Services are pending.

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