Aurora shooting survivor Zack Golditch gets chance to stick with Chargers

SC Featured: Shooting survivor living out NFL dream (6:55)

Before Colorado State offensive lineman Zack Golditch could live out his NFL dream, he had to overcome a nightmare. (6:55)

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Zack Golditch sat in the cold tub before practice on Monday next to the most senior member of his new team: quarterback Philip Rivers.

The conversation between Rivers and the undrafted rookie out of Colorado State turned to Golditch's harrowing experience as a high school junior. Six years ago, Golditch was shot in the neck at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in an incident that claimed the lives of 12 people and injured another 70.

"I figured the guy gets hounded all the time about it, but we ended up in the tub, and I figured, shoot, what the heck?" Rivers said. "You wonder what that experience was like. You read about it, but then hearing about it from someone who was actually in there, it was unbelievable.

"He seems to have handled it pretty well. He's not fearful, like to go to a movie or anything like that. Anytime you read about a tragedy, a car wreck or anything like that, it's always a reminder because you never know."

On July 20, 2012, Golditch attended a midnight showing of "The Dark Night Rises" in Aurora, Colorado. At 12:30 a.m., a gunman entered the theater next to the one where Golditch and others were watching the same film and opened fire.

"I remember a couple pop sounds, and I look up, and there was a little bit of smoke in the air," he said. "I'm thinking it's firecrackers."

Golditch was hit in the neck by a bullet that went through the wall of the theater.

"I mean, only thing I can see is the blood dripping out of neck onto my hand, onto my shoes, onto my shirt, onto the ground," he said.

The bullet was "really, really close" but didn't hit an artery. Golditch was treated and released from the hospital in the early morning hours of July 20.

"Guys have questions here or there, and I'll answer them," Golditch said of his experience. "I haven't told my story in front of the whole team, but guys know. And periodically, people will pop in and ask questions, and I answer them because these are my teammates, and if they want to know, I want to answer those questions."

After weeks of recovery to let his wound heal, Golditch returned to the field for his senior season at Gateway High School. He went on to play at Colorado State, where he started 38 games.

Now Golditch has a chance to earn a spot on the back end of the Chargers' roster with a good showing in the team's final preseason game Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers.

"To have gone through that and to be in the NFL with a chance to be on the team, it's an incredible story," Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "I think it gives you a great perspective on life, and it's great to see him competing and being here with us."

Golditch has played mostly offensive tackle with the reserves during exhibition play, but he also has seen time at guard. One of the advantages for Golditch is that he ran a similar offense in college, easing the transition to the NFL with the Chargers.

"It's been some good and some bad, but I've been giving my best effort," Golditch said. "It was kind of tough in the beginning, with new verbiage and just learning the ways the coaches wanted it to be done. I think my versatility is one of the main reasons why I'm here. So if I can keep bouncing around to different positions and show them that I'm a dependable guy, that helps me."

Whisenhunt said he has seen progress from Golditch since he arrived in May.

"He's improving. That's one of the things," Whisenhunt said. "If you had to say anything about Zack, it is from where he started to where he is now, he has gotten better.

"He has played a number of different positions for us, and that's not always easy. I think his competitiveness is something that really stands out. You like what you see from him in that standpoint."

"He's fired up to be out here," Rivers said. "He seems to have that attitude of 'I was that close, and I ain't taking nothing for granted.'"