Maresh to undergo heart surgery, career in jeopardy

Gophers head football coach Tim Brewster said he wanted Gophers recruit Sam Maresh to lead the team onto the field when it plays its first game at TCF Bank Stadium.

But Maresh likely won’t be playing in that game anymore.

The incoming student-athlete will undergo open-heart surgery to repair or replace his aortic valve June 26 , Maresh and his parents announced Tuesday at a press conference at Champlin Park High School.

If the surgery is successful and Maresh is cleared to play football, he said he sees himself playing for the Gophers in 2010.

“I’m just happy they found (the defect),” he said. “I’m happy that I have the opportunity to repair it and possibly get back to playing football.”

Although he won’t be physically restricted by doctors until the surgery, he won’t be able to work out with the team to get ready for the season, he said.

Maresh will still attend the University next fall, but his father, Bill Maresh, said he will not be taking the summer classes he was enrolled in.

The family learned about Sam Maresh’s defective aortic valve after the recruit underwent EKG and echogram tests at the University, which were spurred by a screening exam June 2 .

Just one day after his high school graduation, he was on campus to go through the screening process. A heart murmur was detected, which led to the tests, Bill Maresh said.

Some experts saw Sam Maresh as a possible first-year starter, and Tim Brewster said he hopes he can play again, but that his health is the only thing that really matters.

“If he helps us down the road, if he plays, that’s an added bonus,” he said.

However, Brewster also called the news a blow to the program, as the recruit has been hyped as a program builder for the Gophers.

Sam Maresh received scholarship offers from programs like Michigan , but decided to stay near home for college .

The surgery will be performed by Dr. Hartzell Schaff of the Mayo Clinic and will consist of Sam Maresh’s valve being replaced or repaired, Dr. Pat Smith , Gophers team physician and orthopedic surgeon, said.

Had he chosen to have a mechanical valve inserted, Sam Maresh would not have been able to play football again, Bill Maresh, said.

Bill Maresh said his family is optimistic because of other athletes who have overcome heart defects, including former Timberwolves player Fred Hoiberg .

Brian Deutsch contributed to this report.