BALTIMORE — Rafi Montalvo, whose career as a Navy quarterback was put on hold when he was seriously hurt in a car accident on Thanksgiving night in 2012, said Wednesday that he has left the academy and will no longer try to play football.
Montalvo, 21, returned to his family's home in South Florida last month and was told by doctors at the University of Miami last week that he would be at risk if he played football again because of the scarring he sustained on his brain as a result of the accident.
“I'm a little disappointed because of all the work I've done, but I'm also thankful because football is what drove me to work hard to get better,” Montalvo said in a telephone interview. “I did everything I could to get back to my old self.”
Montalvo said that after doctors at Miami looked at his MRI “they told me that I'm very lucky to be walking and talking like I am.” Montalvo said he wants to stay around football and plans to help out as a volunteer coach with his former high school team in Miami.
Montalvo resigned from the academy last month after he was told that he needed to improve his academic performance before being evaluated again in terms of resuming his football career. At the time, Montalvo hoped to be cleared by doctors in South Florida and transfer to another school.
“Rafi's an amazing young man,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said Wednesday. “The dedication and the perseverance he had in his rehab, to survive his traumatic ordeal, but also to do all the rehab and all the things that the military put him through [and] the medical people put him through to get back to the acadmy was pretty strenuous deal. For him to come back to the academy was a great accomplishment. ... I'm disappointed that it couldn't work out for him, but I'm super happy where he is in his life. I'm so grateful that Rafi is still here and being able to function as a normal person.”
Ralph Montalvo, who played as a walk-on lineman at Miami, said “we have nothing but admiration for the whole academy experience and how we were treated and how well Rafi was treated during obviously hard times.”
The younger Montalvo had worked his way up to third string as a freshman and was about to travel with the Midshipmen to Philadelphia for the 2012 Army-Navy game when he was critically injured as a passenger in a car that crashed into a home on a foggy Miami street.
He was transported to a local hospital, where he was placed in a medically induced coma. After being brought out of the coma three weeks later, Montalvo spent several months in rehabilitation in Florida and Virginia before returning to the academy last summer.
Doctors initially told him that he would have to wait a year before being evaluated in terms of his ability to play again. Though Navy doctors told Montalvo and his family in December that he had regained all his cognitive skills, they were hesitant to let him play.
“The way I look at this is that I'm happy to have Rafi here. I don't look at this as a tragedy or any other way,” Ralph Montalvo said. “At the end, he's always wanted to be a coach. He's ending his football career a couple years before he should have.”
Rafi Montalvo said he has “been working out like crazy” and plans to resume his college studies this summer. He said that he has also been trying a new sport — crew — with his younger brother, Nicholas, who will compete at Georgetown starting in the fall.