- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Tiny Johnstown, Colo., has its first professional athlete. For at least this week anyway.

Sixth-round draft choice Reed Doughty was not among the 21 players cut by the Washington Redskins on Saturday, meaning the safety will make his NFL debut Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings.

Not that he was actually told the good news. He just didn’t receive any bad news.

“I’m pretty sure I made it,” he said with a laugh Sunday afternoon. “But I know it’s week to week for most guys, including me.”

Doughty earned the right to laugh a little after a harrowing five days that began with the premature birth of his son in Colorado and ended with the baby breathing on his own, Reed securing a spot on the 53-man roster and the purchase of a new car.

Doughty focused on work as much as possible after reporting for training camp July 30, but he was hit with another reality early last Wednesday morning.

Micah Doughty was born at 4 p.m. Colorado time and taken immediately to intensive care. He is expected to be hospitalized for another week.

“All I had thought about was football and when that happens, things do get clouded,” said the new dad, who is periodically sharing his experiences with The Washington Times. “Life definitely deals you some blows from time to time.”

• • •

Doughty forced a fumble in the Redskins’ preseason loss to the Patriots on Aug.26, so he had reason to feel good about his chances of making the roster as the fourth safety after the team released veteran Antuan Edwards. But having been exposed to the short-term nature of the NFL for one month, he knew better. The Redskins signed veteran Vernon Fox on Aug. 29.

Walking off the practice field after the Redskins’ final workout before the preseason game against Baltimore, Doughty knew he would have to make a good showing, particularly on special teams.

His focus changed entirely when his wife, Katie, called his cell phone at 6 a.m. last Wednesday. She wasn’t due for six weeks but was heading to the hospital in Greeley, Colo. An hour later, Doughty went to Redskin Park to tell the coaches and fellow safeties he needed to leave.

“A tough situation for him — it was one of those things that I’ve never faced. and I didn’t know what to say,” veteran safety Adam Archuleta said.

Doughty’s original plan was to return midday Thursday in time for the Ravens game. He caught a mid-morning flight to Denver and was picked up by his mom, who drove the hour-plus to Greeley.

“When Katie called, she thought everything was going to be fine because even though he was early, he wasn’t that early — a little over 35 weeks,” Doughty said. “So I was really excited and just anxious to get there.”

Doughty arrived at the hospital at 3 p.m. local time. Micah was born an hour later.

“Watching the birth was awesome, and my wife did really well,” he said. “There was a little thought in the back of my mind saying, ‘He is a little early, I hope nothing’s wrong.’ I was getting ready to cut the cord when things stopped going well and got a little nerve-wracking.”

The umbilical cord was wrapped around Micah’s neck.

“The doctors told us the cord wasn’t wrapped around him the entire time, and they still thought he was OK,” Doughty said. “He was a little blue and wasn’t lively — he was crying, but it wasn’t very fierce. They were wiggling his arms and he wasn’t really responding. I didn’t really know what was going on but since Katie is a labor delivery nurse, when I could tell she was worried, that’s when I got concerned.”

Doctors placed an oxygen mask on Micah and handed him to Katie for a few seconds. The first time Reed held his son, he walked 30 seconds to the intensive care unit and gave him to the nurses. A chest tube was inserted to help the baby breathe, an examination revealed that his lung was partially punctured and doctors were monitoring his kidney function, heart rate and blood pressure. Additionally, Micah had a strep throat infection that required attention.

“As it turned out, the problem was that he was born early,” Reed said. “But there were so many things going on — he was a sick little boy.”

By Thursday morning, though, Micah was breathing on his own.

“A lot of the stuff calmed down [Thursday],” Doughty said. “He improved pretty quickly.”

Although his son was still connected to an IV, Reed held Micah again at 11 a.m. Friday.

“I can’t tell you how awesome that was,” Doughty said. “At that point, I still cared about the Redskins and making the team, but I was like, ‘This is the most important thing right now.’”

Redskins defensive tackle Joe Salave’a could relate to becoming a father in-season. Two years ago, his wife delivered a daughter days before the final regular-season game.

“It’s mind boggling because the world stops and all of your priorities go to your wife and child and making sure the baby is healthy,” Salave’a said.

Told by doctors that Micah was making steady improvement, Doughty left for the Denver airport Friday afternoon and returned to the D.C. area.

• • •

Back in town late Friday night, Doughty reported to Redskin Park early Saturday for weightlifting and meetings. He got his first clue right away with special teams coach Danny Smith, who talked to him about his role on the return and coverage units.

“He’s a hard worker, and you can tell this is important to him,” Archuleta said. “He’s done everything asked of him so far. Absolutely you can see his potential.”

By making the 53-man roster, Doughty will earn a rookie salary of $303,000 — significantly more than that of those on the practice squad (players there made $5,500 a week last season). Last weekend Doughty bought a new Honda Accord. His previous car was a 1992 Accord with 150,000 miles. When he has spare time this week, he’ll look for a place to rent.

Doughty hopes his wife and son can move to the area next month.

“We hadn’t even started thinking about moving, and my wife was just getting ready to start packing up when the baby came,” he said.

Yesterday Doughty rushed from a late-morning walk-through to an afternoon practice. His locker is between those of veterans Jon Jansen and Christian Fauria.

“I’m definitely excited about Monday night,” Doughty said. “I’m not expecting to do much on defense, but special teams is why they kept me. That’s what I have to continue to improve on because this is a production league. They’ve given me the opportunity, and now it’s up to me.”

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