Tackling a school shooter? For those who know M-S grad, 'That's Jason'

Tackling a school shooter? For those who know M-S grad, 'That's Jason'

At Mahomet-Seymour High School, he was a tough-tackling, rim-touching, shot-putting three-sport star who was always in the middle of the action.

So when news spread in his hometown Friday morning that Jason Seaman prevented what could have been another fatal school shooting, those who spent time with the seventh-grade teacher in Noblesville, Ind., knew it was true.

"I can tell you that there's no surprise in what he did," said family friend Jim Johnston. "That's a guy that runs toward that kind of stuff."

A student told The Associated Press that he saw the 29-year-old teacher and coach at Noblesville West Middle School tackle a fellow student who fired shots inside the classroom around 9 a.m. Friday.

Seventh-grader Ethan Stonebraker said the class was taking a test when the student walked in late, pulled out a gun and started firing.

He said Seaman "immediately ran at him, swatted a gun out of his hand and tackled him to the ground," adding "if it weren't for him, more of us would have been injured for sure."

Seaman was transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, but was released from surgery and "doing well" by Friday afternoon, according to a public Facebook post by his mother, Kristi Seaman.

Under fire, he had taken three bullets, she said — one in the abdomen, one in the hip and one in the forearm. The other victim, a female student, was taken to Riley Hospital for Children, also in Indianapolis, and was reported to be in critical condition Friday evening.

Johnston said he spent time with the family at the hospital, where "everyone was relieved."

"He's doing great," Johnston said. "He's talking. He's himself. Everyone was excited for what he was able to prevent — not only did he put himself in harm's way, but he's fine. That's Jason."

Seaman released a statement later in the day, thanking first responders for their urgency and his students for their support.

"First of all, thank you to the first responders from Noblesville and Fishers for their immediate action and care," he wrote. "I want to let everyone know that I was injured but am doing great. To all the students, you are all wonderful and I thank you for your support. You are the reason I teach."

Police have not yet released the identity of the shooter. The AP reports that the male student brought two handguns into the room to open fire.

'Natural leader'

For those who knew Seaman, it was only the nearness of the shooting that came as a shock — not his actions.

The 2007 News-Gazette Athlete of the Year and a two-sport All-Area performer (football, basketball) and a former college football player at Southern Illinois, Seaman received nothing but praise from those with M-S ties.

Former M-S boys' basketball coach Chad Benedict, a P.E. teacher at M-S who will serve as an assistant principal at the school starting July 1, said he was in a meeting Friday morning when he received the news about Seaman.

"My first reaction was, 'He stopped it,'" Benedict said. "That was my assumption without even getting any of the details because that's just who he is."

Seaman was a senior during Benedict's first season in charge of the Bulldogs in 2006-07.

"He was injured his junior year, and then he got healthy," Benedict said. "The thing that I always appreciated about him was, number one, he was humble, and number two, he was selfless. He was a fantastic teammate. This was a kid that really had a lot of high-level interest athletically and could have played three sports in college if he wanted to."

Seaman also left a mark on Benedict's son, Noah, who just graduated this month from M-S.

"Noah was in first grade at the time, but he hung out at the high school and watched all the sports," Chad Benedict said. "They had a day at his grade school where they could bring a friend to lunch, and Noah got Jason to come down. He ate lunch with Noah and played football with him at recess. That was a really big deal to Noah, and that's just the kind of person Jason is."

Keith Pogue, Seaman's track-and-field coach at M-S and an assistant football coach when Seaman was with the Bulldogs, was devastated to hear the news Friday morning.

"It's really shook me up," Pogue said. "It's affecting me more so than I imagined, to be honest."

Pogue said he hadn't talked directly to Seaman for a few years, but exchanged messages with him once Seaman became the football coach at Noblesville West. Pogue said coaching was a natural fit for Seaman.

"He was so gifted at it and just a natural leader," Pogue said. "I was really pleased to hear he'd gone in that direction."

Pogue — who has been connected with M-S athletics in a coaching capacity for more than two decades and has served as the Bulldogs' head football coach since 2008 — said Seaman brought a different dimension to every team he was involved with at M-S.

"He was a leader for us and maybe, if he wasn't the best athlete to come through Mahomet in my time here, one of the best, by far," Pogue said. "He was just a fun kid to be around. He made working hard in practice fun, and he brought kids up to his level. He didn't just enjoy the games, but he enjoyed everything involved in athletics. He was just that positive example all the time."

'What a hero'

Current M-S boys' track-and-field coach Todd Lafond said he found out about Seaman during Friday's state meet at O'Brien Field in Charleston, a venue Seaman competed at in 2007 during his time with the Bulldogs.

Seaman placed third in state in the shot put as a senior and ninth in the discus in the two-class system.

"Great kid," Lafond said. "Doesn't surprise me that he might've been trying to tackle the kid or something. We just keep praying for him. His family has two young kids (and) one was just born a few months ago, I think. I know his parents real well. His brother played soccer with my son. Our coaches know him and were around. Coach (Tom) Willard was his throws coach. As soon as I found out, I went over and told all of them so they were aware of it. It's a tough situation."

Southern Illinois football coach Nick Hill learned of Seaman's heroics via social media Friday morning. Hill was the Salukis' quarterback during Seaman's true freshman season at Southern in 2007.

"He was everything you'd want in a teammate," Hill said. "He was a hard worker and a tough kid. He always did everything right. He played as a true freshman, and any time you can come in and play on the defensive line at that young an age, you're a tough kid."

Aside from Hill, Seaman played with current SIU safeties coach Marty Rodgers. Salukis' defensive line coach Austin Flyger was a graduate assistant during Seaman's time in Carbondale.

"It just gives me chills driving down the road thinking about it," Hill said. "You don't really know how to feel, and I know myself and the guys on our staff are just in shock. I can't imagine finding myself in a situation like that, but what a hero."