Zack Golditch lived through a nightmare five years ago when he went to see a Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado, and ended up taking a bullet to the neck during a horrific mass shooting.
Now he’s getting a chance to live out his dream.
Golditch, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound guard from Colorado State, signed with the Los Angeles Chargers over the weekend.
The Aurora shooting — in which 12 people were killed and 70 others, including Golditch, were injured — gave him a new perspective on life.
“I was a 17-year-old kid going to see a movie, next thing you know I might not have come home that night. For me to still be able to play football, to be able to be a normal person and an able-bodied person is great,” he told USA Today. “I take nothing for granted. This opportunity to continue to live my life today is amazing.”
He had showed up early on July 20, 2012, for a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century Aurora 16 Multiplex, picking seats near the front of the theater so he’d have an unobstructed view.
USA Today described what happened next:
“About 20 minutes into the movie, Golditch and others in his theater heard loud popping sounds. A man sitting near Golditch yelped and jumped out of his seat. Someone sitting farther back in the theater must have been throwing fireworks, Golditch thought. As he turned his head to look around, he felt something strike the left side of his neck, just below his ear. His ears ringing and with blood starting to gush out of his wound, Golditch ran from the theater, into the lobby and out into the parking lot, where he pulled out his phone to call 911.”
Twenty-seven-year-old James Holmes — who dyed his hair bright orange in an apparent reference to the Batman villain the Joker — had entered the theater armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol, and opened fire on unsuspecting moviegoers.
While a dozen people lost their lives and others were left paralyzed or maimed, Golditch was fortunate: The bullet that hit him made a clean exit through his neck, narrowly missing his skull, crucial arteries and vertebrae.
He was taken to Aurora Medical Center South for treatment and released after less than seven hours.
Golditch was moved as he learned the extent of what had happened and saw the outpouring of support in response.
“I saw the outreach, how people treated me and wanted to help,” Golditch told the Idaho Statesman. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I go out and try to do this for somebody else?’ It’s the littlest things, even a supportive message, it made my day. I feel like it would be selfish if I didn’t try to do something positive out of what happened.”
He has spent a lot of time since then visiting hospitals and schools and volunteering with the local Boys and Girls Club, and he was nominated for the 2017 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
Golditch’s former high school football coach described how he responded to the shooting.
“Zack did not miss a practice, and that included after being shot in the neck,” Justin Hoffman told USA Today. “He showed up the next day, and he wanted to work. He told me, ‘Coach I want this to be a lesson you can use for the rest of your life. If there’s an excuse any other kid can give that’s worse than mine, I’d like to hear it.’ Of course, we cried about it. But that’s what he did, and that’s going to be his life. … He’s going to show up, and he’s going to work.”
Now he’ll be doing that as he tries to stick on the Chargers’ roster.
“I’m super excited. It’s been a long process,” Goldtich told the Reporter-Herald of Loveland, Colorado. “It’s exciting, because I kind of had an idea the Chargers would be a place I would end up, because they had a lot of interest in me from the beginning. I have a lot of family in Southern California, so it will be exciting to go out there and be close to them, so that’s kind of like the icing on the cake. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to go out and make the team.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.