LSU lineman Matt Branch lost his leg in a hunting accident.
LSU lineman Matt Branch lost his leg in a hunting accident.

Dog shoots football star, who loses leg

A FORMER college football offensive lineman had his leg amputated after a freak accident caused by a dog who jumped on a shotgun during a hunting excursion last month.

Matt Branch, an offensive lineman for Louisiana State University from 2008-2011, was hunting for deer and ducks in Mississippi with several friends on December 28 when the annual jaunt near Eagle Lake took a sudden and tragic turn, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports.

"It was a normal morning," Branch's friend, Micah Heckford, told the newspaper. "We got up, made coffee and talked about our game plan. Everybody was pumped up. We rode the levee the day before and there were a ton of ducks. We were excited."

That excitement turned to fear and confusion in an instant when a dog who accompanied Branch's crew - a Labrador retriever named Tito - hopped into the bed of a Polaris Ranger utility vehicle and stepped on the safety of Branch's shotgun, firing at him from roughly four feet away.

"Everybody looked up," Heckford told the newspaper. "The first thing I saw was Matt, and within two to three seconds, he realised he was hit."

The shotgun fired through the bed of the utility vehicle, striking Branch's left thigh. He was then thrown into the back of the Ranger and rushed to a nearby road that paramedics could access before being taken to a hospital in Vicksburg.

Branch was later transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition after having his left leg amputated, Heckford said.

Branch, who has a 1-year-old son, is expected to survive but has several "complex surgeries" ahead of him, according to an online fundraiser set up to help offset medical costs.

"However, the recovery process will take a very long time, an abundance of love, support, and encouragement for Matt and his family to overcome this life-changing accident," the website reads.

Heckford, for his part, is now rethinking gun safety after the startling shooting.

"All of us have hunted for 20 years or more and none of us thought about that happening," Heckford told the newspaper. "We were just moving 200 yards to set up and hunt. The opportunities for an accident are there and we just don't realise it. We think we're being safe, but are we? If there's a shell in that gun, anything can happen."