Jay Bieltz has seen the good and bad times while playing football, soccer and golf at Thomson High School.
The 18-year-old senior understands firsthand what it's like to face obstacles in those sports and in his personal life. Bieltz, the son of Dr. John and Linda Bieltz, of Thomson, was nearly killed in a boating accident over the summer.
He credits his father, an orthopedic surgeon, close friends and others who were nearby when the mishap occurred with saving his life. The three-sport prep star also praised local surgeon Joe Wills, who performed emergency surgery on him at McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson.
He also praised God for sparing his life.
"God played a real big part," Bieltz said.
The boating accident, which happened in the area of Thomson Boat Club at Lake Thurmond, resulted in a seven-day hospital stay.
Today, Bieltz is about 80 percent recovered from the injury to his left arm, which caused him to lose a lot of blood. He still has problems with the wound opening and bleeding sometimes.
"If it hadn't been for my dad and others, I might not have made it," Bieltz said during a recent interview with The McDuffie Mirror . "I came very close to not making it, because I was bleeding so badly."
He wanted to thank two of his close friends, Dalton Harrington and Walker Barmore, who were at the lake and helped him from the water. He also thanked Scott Williams, a local businessman, who drove him and his dad to the emergency room, and Lt. Scott Whittle, of the Thomson Police Department, who provided an emergency escort from the lake to the hospital.
Bieltz said he appreciated everything that everybody did for him, including the prayers.
Despite the injury, Bieltz hasn't missed a beat when it comes to being the Bulldogs' placekicker. He has kicked several extra points this season for the Thomson High football team.
Bieltz has been playing football for Thomson head coach Luther Welsh since he was a sophomore.
"I've enjoyed playing football," Bieltz said. "It's taught me a lot about character."
He also said he's learned much about kicking from special teams coach Chris Hodges and from attending Ray Guy Kicking Academy camps.
"Coach Hodges is a great coach," said Bieltz. "He's taught me so much about kicking. I've learned a lot about kicking from Ray Guy, too."
Guy is recognized by many in America as having been the greatest punter in NFL history.
As for this year's football season, Bieltz conceded it's been a "rough one" -- the Bulldogs are suffering one of their worst seasons in school history -- having won only two games before facing the Burke County Bears.
"We've had a hard schedule and we lost a lot experienced seniors from last year's team," Bieltz said.
Last year's soccer season also was tough -- the Bulldogs failed to make the playoffs unlike the previous two seasons.
"I hope we have a better soccer season than we did last year," said Bieltz, who has led the team in scoring the past three seasons.
Bieltz, an A/B student, has caught the attention of several college soccer teams, including Georgia Southern University and Furman.