On his Facebook page, Harley Fain is all smiles, rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder, flexing his muscles, supporting the police, Donald Trump and the Sooners, chatting amiably with friends and family.
But the pictures are carefully posed. While Fain’s muscles are indeed impressive, they mask the fact that his hands are almost completely useless. And that he’s in a wheelchair and has been for almost four years.
“I just want to set the record straight,” he said in an exclusive interview. “Right after I was injured, police interviewed me and I was groggy on pain medications. My story changed from me believing it was bullying to not.”
What they were asking was whether his broken neck had occurred due to a consensual wrestling match with fellow Rougher football player Mackenzie McCall, a running back and linebacker to Fain’s tight end and linebacker. In March of 2013, Fain was rushed to the hospital after his neck was broken in a locker room at Indian Bowl. Coaches, who were in a meeting at the time, were not supervising the students when the event happened.
McCall told authorities he and Fain had been wrestling. Fain, hopped up on pain meds, at first didn’t agree, but then did.
“I just didn’t know what I was saying.”
But now, he says, he wants people to know the truth: he was being bullied by McCall.
“I had checked out a ball, and I was going to check it back in and Mackenzie said he wanted it,” Fain said. “But the ball was checked out to me; I was responsible for it, so I said no, he should check out a ball himself.”
McCall, angered by the refusal, followed Fain into the locker room and attacked him from behind, he said. The running back picked him up and slammed him headfirst into the ground.
“I heard a crack,” he said. “And then I couldn’t feel anything.”
McCall tried to prop his body up on the lockers, he said, but he fell down again. Another student came in and called for help. A coach then moved Fain again, a 2015 lawsuit claimed, possibly making the neck injury worse.
“My parents filed that lawsuit,” he said. “I asked them to drop it and they did, because I was tired of fighting.”
Fain is paralyzed from the nipples down. He can use his arms, but he can’t use his hands. He attended NSU, but took this semester off.
“I want to be a coach,” he said.
The statute of limitations for criminal charges passed nine months ago, as did most statutes for civil actions, but Fain says he’s not interested in all that anyway; he just wants to get the record straight and get on with his life.
“I want people to know (how dangerous) bullying is,” he said.
McCall, who went on to walk on to a college football team, declined efforts to reach out to him for this story. His Twitter account, however, seems to indicate he has moved on as well, with him tweeting jokes about neck injuries:
Fain’s dreams of playing college football are over. But his dream of becoming a coach is still up for grabs, despite the physical challenges he was dealt while he was still a teenager hoping to be responsible and check a football back in when he was done practicing his snaps with it. He also wants people to be aware that bullying can have real - and permanent - consequences.