Friday, November 26, 2021
Nov. 26, 2021

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Ridgefield’s Connor Delamarter makes the most of his time on football field

Linebacker plays despite heart condition, and would like to play in college if possible

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor

RIDGEFIELD — Connor Delamarter knows this weekend’s playoff game could be his last football game.

He hopes that’s not the case. He hopes the Ridgefield Spudders will defeat Squalicum on Saturday and advance to the 2A state semifinals.

And he also hopes the right opportunity to play college football presents itself.

But the senior all-league linebacker doesn’t need to be reminded to make the most out of every play or every moment with his teammates on the field.

He’s been doing that every game since his doctor told Delamarter four years ago that he might have played his last game.

On that day, Delamarter was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart wall that can make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood. It often goes undiagnosed as the condition can present no symptoms.

Doctors suspected Delamarter had the condition when he was an infant. But it could not be confirmed until his heart grew to its adult form.

That day came when Delamarter was playing football as an eighth grader at Alki Middle School.

“It was game day,” Delamarter recalled. “They performed all these tests on me, which I didn’t understand. I just wanted to get to my game. I wanted to play football. But after they were done, my cardiologist said ‘Connor, I’m going to have you wear a heart monitor.’ And I was confused. Like, how am I going to play with a heart monitor on?”

“And then these are the words I’ll remember for the rest of my life. ‘Connor, I’m going to need you to take a break from football for a while.’ ”

The words hit him like a blindside tackle.

“That was just a shock — a shock.” Delamarter said. “I can remember wanting to hold in the tears, but they just flowed. The game that I had worked at for so long, my entire life, was taken away like that. It was really hard.”

Even now, the memory brings back a flood of emotions.

“It’s hard to explain,” he said, gathering his composure. “It was such an odd experience. It was just straight-up shock. Because up to that point in my life, I had never felt anything, like anything was wrong. I was like ‘Really? I have this?’ ”

His parents told him about the heart condition he had when he was an infant, but he figured it was something he had outgrown as he never experienced any symptoms.

The break from football and other physical activity lasted five months. Delamarter spent the first month wearing a heart monitor. Then he went through a litany of stress tests, electrocardiograms, ultrasounds, all to determine the severity of the condition.

Then finally, Delamarter got the green light to return football, first from his cardiologist and then from his parents, Ryan and Julie Delamarter.

“My parents, God bless them,” Delamarter said. “At first, they told me that I might not play football again. But then they could look in my eyes and see how important football was to me. So they did everything they could to get me back. And my cardiologist did everything he could, and I’m just so thankful to them for that.”

Delamarter’s first game back was the opener of his freshman season — at King’s Way Christian High School.

“That first game freshman year against Elma — it feels like it was yesterday — that was my first game back,” he said. “In the moment, I wasn’t thinking about my heart condition. I was just thinking about beating Elma. … But then after the game, I sat down and thinking ‘I’m back.’ ”

After his sophomore year at King’s Way, the school suspended its football program. Delamarter enrolled at Ridgefield High School and began playing with the Spudders during last winter’s COVID season.

“I never thought I’d be here,” Delamarter said. “I thought I’d be doing the same thing, but with the King’s Way Knights. But, I tell you what, I would not trade this for anything. This town, this program, this team. I love these guys to death, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It was all just part of the plan. I ended up being at Ridgefield, and I love it here. It’s a dream come true.”

Delamarter says when he’s on the field, he’s focused on what he needs to do. At the same time, he also needs to be aware of his condition. And the defibrillator on the sideline at every practice and every game serves as a constant reminder.

“I’ve actually developed some big health anxiety,” he said. “There are times when it creeps in my head. But I’ve just got to tell myself ‘If I truly feel something, I will let my coaches know.’ I know my body. I know how I’m supposed to feel.”

Delamarter says he’s received a few offers to play college football, and he’s hoping for more. But he is also applying to schools where he wouldn’t play football.

“If it ends up happening, great,” Delamarter said. “But if it doesn’t, and the best place for me is someplace where I don’t play football, that’s fine. I’ll go wherever the Lord takes me.”

The experience has given him a great perspective on life. He knows now there is more to life than football, more to Connor Delamarter than football.

But he also knows he can’t let a moment on the field with his teammates go to waste.

“Every week I go ‘you know, I could play college football. But what if don’t?’ ” he said. “This could be my last football game. … It will be heartbreaking when that last game happens, whether it’s this week, or three weeks from now at Sparks Stadium (in Puyallup) for the state title game. That’s the plan. I’ve always thought about that, ever since this year started. And it’s taught me to take it one day at a time, one game at a time. Because nothing is guaranteed.”