Every day is a gift.
And no one understands that better than Jordan Gowins.
The standout halfback from St. Anthony's was named the 64th recipient of the Newsday Carl A. Hansen Memorial Award at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association banquet Monday night.
Gowins rushed for 2,012 yards and scored 24 touchdowns on 189 carries to lead the Friars to the CHSFL championship. He is only the third junior to win the prestigious award, given to Suffolk's top player. The only two-time winner was Jason Gwaltney of North Babylon in 2003 and '04.
This year's other finalists were Malik Pierre of Sachem North, Jake Carlock of Babylon, Connor Coughlin of Patchogue-Medford, Sam Ilario of West Islip and Jeremiah Cheatom of Riverhead.
"I have so much to be thankful for and I'm extremely blessed to be in this position," said Gowins, who is being recruited heavily by Florida State, Penn State and Clemson. "I am surrounded by outstanding people at St. Anthony's who are there for me everywhere I turn. My teammates, coaches and the administration all share in this award."
St. Anthony's high school principal Brother Gary Cregan remembers the day he interviewed Gowins for entrance to the school as a freshman.
"I asked him why he should attend our school," Cregan said. "And his answer made me stop for a moment. He said, 'I'm godly and I appreciate everything I get.' So I went further and asked, 'Why are you so godly and so appreciative?' And he said, 'I almost died when I was 10 years old in a pool accident. So I live every day to the fullest.' "
On July 28, 2007, Gowins, who said he had never been in an in-ground pool, jumped into the deep end and never came up. For almost four minutes, he lay unconscious in the bottom of the pool before his friend James Pepe pulled him out and saved his life. "We thought we lost him," said his mother, Patrina Cousin. "His lungs were filled with chlorine and he was coughing up water and blood. It was awful."
Gowins lay in a drug-induced coma for a week, the permanent damage from the near drowning unknown. After a week in the intensive care unit at Stony Brook University Hospital, he was stabilized and moved to the pediatric unit. Gowins went home a week later with a grim prognosis.
"The doctors told me I may never play football again, that walking could be a challenge," Gowins said. "I had to learn how to walk again."
Gowins went through months of rigorous physical therapy to learn to walk again.
"It was a miracle that we didn't lose him," Cousin said. "The accident was life-changing for all of us."
Said Gowins: "God has other plans for me. And I'm making the most of a second chance."
Cregan said he feels he's dealing with a special kid, mature beyond his years. He also felt the transition from his hometown of Bellport to St. Anthony's would be seamless.
And it has been. Gowins is doing well on and off the field.
"He's that rare combination of power and speed," St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert said. "His speed is deceptive and he just runs away from defenders. He was special from the day he walked in the door."
His biggest touchdown run came on a 94-yard sprint to break a 14-14 tie with Stepinac and send the Friars to a 31-14 win. He finished with 202 yards and three scores.
Against Iona Prep, he dazzled with three TDs, including a 78-yarder, in a 42-21 win. In the final against Chaminade, a 35-0 win, he had a 47-yard TD.
His mother couldn't be prouder. "He worked his butt off to come back from last year's season-ending ankle injury," she said. "To go to this level is a credit to him, the support system at St. Anthony's and his desire to be the best."
Jordan joins his brother Edwin as the only brothers to garner the Hansen Award.
"He's doing his thing but he doesn't have a choice because I want him to do better than I did," said Edwin Gowins Jr., the 2006 winner. "Jordan's more focused in school than I was, so he's already one step ahead."