- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (AP) - Corey Dooley smiles as he talks, revealing a set of shiny braces and the personality that makes him so popular on the South Grand Prairie campus.

“I’m a people person,” Corey told The Dallas Morning News (https://bit.ly/1QY0EY6), and that’s obvious when you talk with him.

He’ll tell you how much football means to him. He’ll share with you how he loves to be a leader and wants to help his community. And he’ll show you, without prompting, where the four bullets tore through his body two years ago, leaving him with a 30 percent chance of survival when he arrived at the hospital.

Corey says he’ll never be the fastest guy on the field. But the 6-2, 165-pound senior has always had good hands, and after playing a backup role last season, he’s now a starting receiver for one of the area’s top teams. He made a critical catch for South Grand Prairie last week when he snagged a third-down pass on the Warriors’ winning touchdown drive against Arlington Martin.

“It all came together on that play,” Corey told his coaches.

That seems appropriate, considering how Corey pulls people together. He wants to study political science in college, hopes to one day be a politician, and likes superhero movies - his favorite series is Iron Man - because of “the battle of good vs. evil.”

Anything he can do to make a positive change, he says, he’ll do it.

“He’s the guy who friends go to, or ask to come over, if they need comfort or advice,” says Nicole Rishard, Corey’s mom. “He’s the one to make peace, not war. If there’s going to be a fight, he’s the one who will step in and stop it.”

Corey is a natural leader, South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson says. Gifted public speaker, great listener, friend to everyone.

“He has a way of pulling everyone in,” Whitson says. “He was always that way. He just maybe has more opportunity now since the incident.”

On the evening of Oct. 16, 2013, Nicole Rishard pulled into the garage at her mother’s house in DeSoto. Corey, then 15, was in the front passenger’s seat, and his brother Cody, then 14, was in the back seat. Cody had just played a football game for Truman Middle School, and they were talking football as the closing garage door jerked to a stop.

The door then reversed direction. Corey remembers his brother turning to look behind him and gasping when he saw his stepfather.

Richard Richard, who then went by the name of Richard Rishard, had been married to Nicole Rishard for nearly five years. But Nicole wanted to end the marriage and had moved in with her mother several months earlier.

“We were aware that Richard was coming around, and like stalking us,” Corey remembers. “He tried to send stuff and would try to be in our lives and show up at our games.”

Richard pointed a gun at the car, Corey says, and began screaming.

“He was swearing and cussing and said, ‘Get out of the car! Get out of the car! I’m not playin’, I’m going to shoot.’” Corey says. “Before you know it, he starts firing.”

Corey was hit twice on the right side of his back, and his mom was shot in the arm. She leaned toward Corey, trying to cover him, as Corey leaned toward his mom, trying to cover her. Shattered glass fell on them as the shooter walked around the car. Corey was hit two more times, in his upper left leg and hip, before his mom could get the car started and pull out of the garage.

Rishard couldn’t find her phone but was able to use the car’s OnStar service to call for help as she drove to a Walgreen’s parking lot. Richard Richard was found at the house, police said, and was on his knees with his hands in the air. He is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and his jury trial is set for November.

Lying in the Walgreen’s parking lot, bleeding from four bullet wounds, Corey wasn’t thinking about dying. His life didn’t pass before his eyes, he says. He looked down at his Nike jacket, a gift that he had just received.

“It was just covered in blood,” he says, “and I was thinking, ‘I’ll never get to wear this jacket again.’”

Corey went to the hospital in one ambulance and his mother in another. Cody, who was uninjured, traveled in the ambulance with his brother, who slipped in and out of consciousness.

Corey was bleeding from two major arteries, one near his heart and one in his left leg. Doctors later said that Corey had lost nearly two-thirds of his blood. When he arrived at the hospital, they estimated his chances of survival at 30 percent.

Corey remembers lying in the operating room, feeling like it was a movie, seeing the bright white lights above and the doctors in scrubs talking and passing tools around.

He tried to talk, but couldn’t.

“I could feel myself dying,” Corey says. “I was losing my voice. My vision was getting blurry, and I was just praying. I felt myself leaving my body. It’s an indescribable feeling. It’s like literally losing yourself.”

The next thing Corey remembers is waking up four days later, surrounded by family and friends. Corey was on the road to recovery, but doctors warned that there might be complications. With so much blood loss, his brain might have been deprived of oxygen, and there could be speech problems or other cognitive impairments.

Those fears were eased by a week after the shooting, when Corey talked with reporters from his hospital bed at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Just two weeks after he felt like he was dying, he was released from Methodist Dallas and taken to Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas, where hospital personnel were waiting with a wheelchair.

“Looking at the list of injuries, they were expecting someone who was paralyzed,” his mom says. “They were amazed to see that he could walk.”

Corey walked with a limp. But he made enough progress the following week that his doctors at Baylor allowed him to leave a day early so he could attend Cody’s football game.

Still, the recovery was slow. In addition to the bullet wounds, Corey had a large incision on his stomach from a surgery in which doctors used a hook to remove three of the bullets. He couldn’t sit up without extreme pain, and the incision was so wide, Corey felt like it would never heal.

“He went from one day being strong and healthy and independent, to being pretty dependent on people and in constant pain,” his mom says. “He was pretty depressed for months afterward.”

Counseling helped Corey recover emotionally from the shooting. But when Corey returned to football training in January 2014, three months after the shooting, his first workout left him in tears. Everything hurt, and he felt so weak he wasn’t sure if he would play again.

But Jonathan Anthony, Corey’s teammate and friend since the fourth grade, knew the guy he calls his “brother” would make it back.

“He’s not afraid of working hard,” says Anthony, a senior defensive back. “If he wants something, he’s going to get it.”

Progress was slow, but by spring practice, Corey was cleared for full contact. The limp was gone, and the damaged nerves in his left leg were improving. His first big test came when he reached high for a pass and absorbed a big hit from his best friend. Anthony was “just doing his job,” Corey said with another smile.

“From that point on,” Corey says, “I was like, ‘I’m back!’”

He was back to himself, but also different. He’s much more mature, he says. He chuckles when he thought about how, when he first talked to doctors after the shooting, he might not have to miss a game.

“I thought maybe I could just go back out on the field,” he says. “I thought maybe they could just tape me up.”

Football was everything when he was 15. Now it’s just something. There are other important things, such as family, which includes an older sister in the Air Force. There is college, and he hopes to play football at Texas A&M-Commerce.;

Corey sees the scars every day, and he knows one bullet remains lodged near his right shoulder blade. The bullet doesn’t bother him, he says. It’s now part of him, along with an experience that, although he wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, has actually helped him.

“God sometimes has to bring us through challenges to get the reward,” he says. “A lot of people have heard my story, and now I’m looked upon as a leader and somebody to be an example.

“I love that.”

___

Information from: The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com


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