PAYSON, Utah (AP) — A Utah youth football coach accused of hitting an opposing ball carrier under the chin with his forearm during a game and giving the boy a concussion maintains his innocence.
Nathan Harris, in his first public statement since his arrest after the Oct. 6 incident in Payson, said the 13-year-old boy ran into him near the sideline at the end of a play and he never moved toward the boy.
"The play came around the edge and looked like it was headed up the field and at the last second one of our linebackers pushed the guy out of bounds and he landed in my chest," Harris said.
Harris also told KSL (http://bit.ly/UY9eaP ) that video shows his arms springing out as the player ran toward him, making some parents believe he pushed the player. But he had little time to react to the oncoming player, he said.
"My instinct was to cover my chest," he said. "As I got hit, my body went back two or three yards but my arms continued out ... From the point that he gets pushed out of bounds until he makes impact or contact with me was about three-tenths of a second."
Asked why he didn't help the player back up from the ground afterward, Harris replied, "The player pops up ... He was fine, he jumped up, none of us thought there was any problem."
Referee David Durrant threw a penalty flag and ejected Harris.
"It looked like the coach had a lot of time to move, he didn't move, and he stood there and delivered a blow," Durrant said.
Harris, a volunteer assistant whose son also was playing in the game, was arrested Monday for investigation of felony child abuse and posted $5,000 bail on Tuesday. Prosecutors will decide whether to file charges.
Police said the boy was expected to miss a month of playing time. His team won in overtime with a field goal.
Harris said the incident has damaged his life and reputation.
"It's been rough. It's been especially hard on my family," he told KSL. "Just seeing it go all over the Internet, everywhere. My business is going to be impacted, so I'm going to have to pick up the pieces from that and my family, we'll be OK."
Information from: KSL-TV, http://www.ksl.com/