Monday, October 20, 2003 Updated: October 21, 8:31 PM ET
Two sought in connction with incident
DENVER -- John Hessler, the baby-faced quarterback who
starred at Colorado before finding a home as a middle school
teacher and coach, was in a coma Tuesday after a weekend
Hessler, 29, who suffered a collapsed lung and a major head
injury, was in critical condition at an undisclosed hospital, CU
officials said. So many well-wishers called to check on his
condition that relatives set up an update line where they could
also leave messages.
Hessler, who lives in Brighton, was driving on Interstate 76 in
north Denver on Sunday when his car was clipped from behind by a
Chevrolet sport-utility vehicle, sending his car across the highway
and into an oncoming pickup truck.
The driver of that vehicle, William Becker, 51, of Denver, was
The two people in the SUV fled after the crash and were being
sought, State Trooper Ron Watkins said.
Hessler is a Brighton High School graduate who led Colorado to a
29-21 victory over third-ranked Texas A&M in 1995 after replacing
an injured Koy Detmer. He followed that up with a 38-17 win over
Oklahoma, setting a school record with five touchdown passes.
Hessler said he was determined to win after hearing Oklahoma
coach Howard Schnellenberger say Detmer should start because he
didn't want the game's score to be followed by an asterisk when OU
Hessler started the rest of the 1995 season as well as the
entire 1997 season after Detmer graduated.
He was also a relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies farm team
in Tucson in 1998. He was 4-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 16 games, with one
save. He retired from baseball before spring training in 1999.
Hessler is a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Vikan
Middle School in Brighton and a junior varsity football coach at
Regis High School in Aurora.
Vikan students were making cards and a banner for Hessler,
principal Doris Candelarie said.
This is only Hessler's first year at Regis but he has made
strides in working with the team's quarterbacks and receivers,
athletic director Kelly Doherty said.
"He's definitely a player's coach because they know he's been
there," he said. "It's not a love-hate relationship. It's just a
love relationship, and that's pretty unusual for high school
Hessler's family said they were grateful for the support they
"Knowing that John has so many wonderful friends who are
sending their love his way continues to help us in this difficult
time," Hessler's parents, June and Keith Hessler, and three
siblings said in a written statement.