Tucker Melcher’s Eighteen Days of Life or Death
A Nevada football player’s deadly encounter with a rare brain infection: how he recovered and returned to the field.
Dressed from head to toe in Nevada football gear with a radiating smile, noticeably rosy cheeks and long brown curly hair nearly reaching his tanned shoulder tops, 21-year-old Nevada receiver Tucker Melcher is a healthy and strong young man. Just looking at him one would never know that a year and a half ago he nearly lost his life.
Since second grade Tucker has dreamed of playing football at the University of Nevada. His dream came to life when he walked onto the Nevada football team and made it in the fall of 2013. Melcher redshirted his freshmen year, meaning he did not play or travel with the team, but he attended practices and was on the same schedules as the other players, preparing for the 2014 season when he would be able to actively play and travel.
Once 2014 came around, Melcher had his first season as a live player to look forward to.
March rolled around and Melcher was put on antibiotics for a sinus infection but thought little of it as he began to feel better. He planned a trip to Huntington Beach with some football friends for spring break.
Tucker began to feel sick again but this time was different. Melcher’s roommate and best friend, Brent Zuzo, drove him back to Reno from Huntington.
“I knew this was more than a sinus infection,” Tucker recalled.
After arriving back in Reno, Melcher was admitted to the local hospital where he would spend the next eighteen days fighting a deadly brain infection caused by bacteria getting into a hole in his skull. The left side of his body was paralyzed while he was in the hospital and startling seizures discouraged doctors, who were obligated to tell Melcher’s parents that their son might not survive.
The support he received never waivered; the waiting room was flooded with Melcher’s friends and family and there was never a time where a person affiliated with Nevada football was not there with him. This enormous support group was finally given relief when Tucker began to show signs of improvement.
Tucker Melcher would live to tell this story.
After narrowly avoiding death and now having to complete physical therapy, speech therapy, and make up the school he missed while he was sick and recovering, Melcher had only one thing on his mind: football. Doctors were unsure whether he could return to the field or not, leaving Melcher nervously wondering if his second grade dream would be forced to rest.
Finally, doctors informed Melcher and his family that he would be able to play football again. His second-grade dream was once again a reality. After being away for a full year, he was finally able to return to the football field and at some point on his first day back to practice every player told him it was good to have him back. For Melcher, it was beyond good to be back.
Tucker Melcher, #82, went in as a receiver in the last quarter of Nevada’s first game of the fall 2015 season. He has played several times throughout the season as a receiver or on special teams, and looks forward to the rest of this year and those to come.
“At any point I could have given up, and if I had then I would not be where I am now,” Melcher said.
He recently received a full-ride football scholarship from the university. Tucker Melcher’s story is a rare miracle.