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Jacy Dike-Pedersen, 16, a California School for the Deaf all-league football player, signs to his teammates during practice in Fremont, Calif., on Tuesday Oct. 4, 2011. Dike-Pedersen has been sidelined from playing because of blood clots under his collarbone and lungs. (Anda Chu/Staff)

At first, California School for the Deaf football player Jacy Dike-Pedersen thought it was just asthma.

The junior fullback/linebacker wasn't breathing normally during a scrimmage Aug. 27, but he didn't think it was a big deal. A few days later, his right arm began to swell.

"It was like a balloon," Eagles coach Kevin Bella said through sign language.

Dike-Pedersen was rushed to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente in Fremont, and a day later an ultrasound was done. The diagnosis was startling -- Dike-Pedersen had blood clots under his right collarbone and on his right side under his armpit.

He knew what that news meant to his football season.

"I was trying to think of other solutions in order to play football," signed Dike-Pedersen, a first-team All-Bay Football League selection at linebacker last season. "I was trying to think, what else can I do besides football?"

He received more bad news when a subsequent CT scan showed he also had clots in his lungs. Dike-Pedersen was admitted to an intensive care unit at Kaiser in Santa Clara, where a week of heavy blood thinning medication didn't dissolve the clots. He then had surgery to remove one of his ribs.

But Dike-Pedersen's positive attitude has helped him to recover enough that he is now in street clothes on the sidelines, witnessing an outstanding season by his team.

California School for the Deaf, a North Coast Section Division V team, is 5-0. Among its wins is a 56-7 victory over Mission San Jose, a Division I team. The Eagles will face 5-0 Valley Christian in a BFL showdown Thursday at 7 p.m. at Chabot College.

"I do miss playing the physical sports," said the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Dike-Pedersen, who was healthy enough to start attending school Sept. 19. "But I think it's best not to pull myself down. I've got to keep positive.

"I was still able to contribute to the team by helping my defense and all of the players with tips and motivational words to get the players fired up for the games," wrote Dike-Pedersen in an email to this newspaper.

He also mentioned it was a positive that other players had improved in their skills and this was an opportunity for them to play.

"He is a great player, a great leader," said Bella, who presented Dike-Pedersen his team jersey Aug. 31 when he was in ICU. "The players really respect him. They will work for him."

Dike-Pedersen and teammate Steven La bicycled 460 miles in six days this summer, from Santa Cruz to Huntington Beach.

"He's a great person. I admire him," La signed. "He is a big role model to the team."

Dike-Pedersen wrote in an email that he won't be able to play football this season because of the blood thinning medicine he's taking. He will have a dye injected into him in March to see if there are still clots in his veins. He'll be able to play football next year only if the clots are gone.

He definitely has interests away from the football field. Dike-Pedersen is an excellent student, producing a 4.0 grade-point average the last two semesters. He's also in the process of restoring a Volkswagen.

"I've got a great support system," said Dike-Pedersen, mentioning his family and Bella.

Dike-Pedersen, who was born hard of hearing, was a key member of last year's squad that reached the NCS playoffs for the first time since 2002. Now, he continues to be part of the squad as a scout for the defense, calling defensive plays occasionally and doing statistics.

"His spirit is always with us. We know he's there right next to us," signed teammate Conrad Baer.