Melanie Maxwell/The Ann Arbor News/MLIVE.COM/Landov
Austin Hatch, the surviving teen who lost his entire family
in two plane crashes eight years apart, played his first game
for the University of Michigan Sunday.
Hatch, 19, played the final three minutes of the second half of a preseason game in Italy, according to Michigan Athletics
He didn't score, but the fact he was able to play at all is a miracle in and of itself given the near-fatal injuries Hatch sustained in the crashes.
His father, Stephen, and his stepmother died in the 2011 plane crash that he – and one of his dogs
– somehow survived.
Hatch had just verbally committed
to the University of Michigan nine days prior.
In 2003, Hatch and his father – who was the pilot in both accidents – survived a crash that claimed the lives of his mother and two siblings.
After the second crash, Hatch had to learn to walk and talk all over again after emerging from an eight-week-long, medically induced coma, he said at a November press conference
He is still trying to regain all of his cognitive abilities, he said.
"As you can imagine, it has been a heck of a journey to get here," Hatch said Sunday, according to quotes released by Michigan Athletics. "Playing basketball at the University of Michigan has been my goal since I was a little kid."
Having him on the court "was a special moment" for his head coach as well, said Michigan's John Beilein.
"Austin even led us in the fight song after the game was over," he said. "It was a great moment for our team; however, it was truly special for Austin and his grandfather, Jim, who was here in the stands."
Leading the fight song was "unreal," Hatch said.
"To lead the team in the fight song after the game is a big tradition," he said, adding that he'd watched it on his visits to the campus.
"I always thought to myself, 'I hope someday I am in a position to do that,' " he said.
Hatch's year has been full of many such emotional moments.
His first day back on the basketball court was in January, and he scored a three-pointer in his first game for Loyola High in California, causing his coach and teammates to flood the court – and earning them a technical foul.
"It was the best technical foul I've ever been a part of," Loyola Coach Jamal Adams told the Los Angeles Times
"It was unbelievable what that kid has gone through and how hard he's worked," Adams said. "That kid has taught me you can come back from anything, that nothing is impossible."
All his hard work is "for my father," Hatch told reporters after practice on Aug. 13, according to a video on Mlive.com
"I've done my best to honor him throughout my road to recovery," he said. "He taught me how to work hard from a young age."