Cowboys team members signed Wyatt Chase Matthews' jersey to send to him in the hospital. pennell photo - Bob Pennell

He'll always be a cowboy

One by one, members of the Medford Cowboys Pop Warner football team left their huddle and ventured over to a table to sign a blue jersey with the number "45" emblazoned on the back.

The jersey belongs to Wyatt Chase Matthews, 8, who was struck by a car while crossing Crater Lake Avenue with his sisters, ages 11 and 15. The kids were heading to their home on Forest Hills Drive Thursday afternoon.

Wyatt was flown Friday to Doernbecher Children's Hospital, where he's been upgraded from critical to serious condition.

"You know how much of a hard worker Wyatt was," Cowboys coach Steve Furst told his team. "I think that's why he was able to pull through this."

Wyatt, who is accompanied at the hospital by his mother, Kim Matthews, his two sisters, an aunt and his grandparents, suffered a fractured skull, a partially broken cervical spine and three fractures around his right eye. He's showing no signs of paralysis, and seems to be improving, Matthews said.

"He's better than he was yesterday," Matthews said. "Basically we're just having to keep his neck steady."

To maintain vision in his eye, doctors may need to perform surgery on Monday, Matthews said.

Wyatt is talking and even exhibiting some of his normal behavior, his mother added. When a doctor asked Wyatt if he knew where he was, he responded, "outer space."

On the doctors' second attempt with the question, Wyatt relinquished.

"Hospital," Matthews recalled him saying. "He's comprehensive. He's got a great sense of humor."

Wyatt's injuries mark the 13th time this year that a pedestrian has been hit by a vehicle in Medford, said Medford police Lt. Tim Doney. Another 11 incidents in town involved a vehicle hitting a bicycle.

An investigation is in progress and no citations have been issued.

Doney said their are precautions drivers and pedestrians can take to limit these kinds of accidents.

"We would encourage drivers to be aware of their surroundings," Doney said. "When they see pedestrians on an adjacent sidewalk they should slow down. Pedestrians should make sure they use a marked crosswalk. And when walking in a high-traffic area, pedestrians should use crosswalks at controlled intersections."

Wyatt and his sisters were not using a crosswalk.

Aside from a lot of scrapes and bruises, Matthews said her son is going to be OK.

She's hopeful he will be able to return home in about a week.

Wyatt was actually placed on the Cowboys team by mistake. Early Thursday he was moved to another squad because he didn't make the Cowboys' weight limit. But Furst, presuming Wyatt will be unable to play this season, said he will ask the league to return him to the Cowboys' roster.

He told the team that he'll send the jersey to Wyatt in a package with some games and toys.

"He was a hard worker and he never complained," Furst said. "He's a Cowboy now, and he'll always be a Cowboy."

Reach intern Bob Albrecht at 776-8791 or e-mail

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