If Ohio State sophomore linebacker Joshua Perry ever needs a reminder of what he's thankful for, he can just look at the green wristband he dons at all times, including during games. It's a tribute to his neighbor, friend and former Olentangy High School teammate Tyler Batten, who suffered critical injuries in a car crash on July 8, 2012 and spent more than a week in a coma.
"Technically, I shouldn't be alive right now," Batten told BuckeyeSports.com. "I should be dead. The doctor thought I would be dead within the week and then the month, and I'm not dying. Then they said I would never walk or talk again and even graduating high school was a stretch. College wasn't even an option back then. It wasn't even thought of. And now I've graduated high school on time and I'm going to Otterbein University."
The pair have been friends since third grade, and Perry visited Batten several times after the accident while he recovered from a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Even though he suffered some memory loss and occasionally struggles with speaking, Batten has taken on a role with the Otterbein football team as an assistant to the head coach.
"Tyler is my neighbor, so I grew up down the street from him and went to school with him," Perry told BuckeyeSports.com. "He graduated the year after me, so it's been a close relationship. After the accident, that was a really big deal. The whole community rallied around him, but it was hard to deal with because he lived right down the street and was a guy I'd see every day. I have a lot of respect for him and a great relationship with his family. Being able to be there for them was one thing, but watching them go through that was hard."
Batten has been told about Perry's visit to him in the hospital, and he still remembers the visits from his friend once he returned home.
"He's always there for me and I can always count on him," Batten said. "He's just a great person, and his whole family was there for me when I was in the hospital."
The wristband came about through an attempt to raise funds and awareness, and Perry still wears it more than a year later. That came as a surprise to Batten, who said he doesn't even wear his anymore.
"My mom had them made after the accident," he said. "Nobody really knew anything about my injury. It's cool. Honestly, I thought (Perry's) would be off by now because I'm not even wearing mine. It's honestly without words – it's indescribable. It just means a lot."
For Perry, it's the least he can do for a close friend. It also serves a greater cause, helping educate people who ask about it.
"I wear just wear it as a reminder – that's my guy," Perry said. "But also, a lot of people suffer from brain injuries and it's a big things. More people need to be aware, because it's a great cause and a lot of people are affected by it."
Perry, who has a younger sibling that suffers from autism, said that he appreciates the fact that his role on the Ohio State football team gives him a platform to speak out about causes and help raise awareness among friends and fans.
"Being able to express myself and have these outlets where people can listen and become more aware of these things is a great thing," he said.
While he supports his friend and former classmate to this day, his role as a starting linebacker for the Buckeyes doesn't make him immune to friendly barbs. Perry, who has registered 42 tackles and two pass breakups this season, still hears from Batten about his play on the gridiron.
"He's given me a little feedback, and I appreciate everything," Perry said. "He's just a funny guy. He'll bust my chops a little bit because he knows me, and I expect that from him."