FORT COLLINS, Colo. - A 4-year-old boy who was inadvertently blitzed by a college football player during a game has 30 stitches in his head, but he's recovering well, his father said yesterday.

It was the spring youth football festival at Colorado State on Saturday, and Caden Thomas was wandering along the sidelines with his father during the team's intrasquad game. They were near the end zone when wide receiver George Hill, trying to catch a touchdown pass, didn't see the boy in time and crashed into him.

"Well, there's the sickening thud," Caden's father, Michael Thomas, said yesterday. "I was just tremendously worried about the rest of his life. You make automatic assumptions there will be some damage when you see something that horrific."

The team's trainer and doctor rushed in to help Caden as his father held him and Hill waited nearby, worried about the little boy. Caden was bleeding from a deep cut on his head, but he was conscious, and his neurological exams were normal.

"He was saying he wanted to go home," Thomas said. "I think he had a pretty good idea that this was going to require a trip to the hospital, and he was none too excited about that prospect. "

The next day, Caden got a call from Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick. He also got a football signed by the team, Thomas said. Caden himself talked a little bit about what happened.

"It was kind of scary 'cause I got bonked by the football," the boy said, hugging his own football. "It kind of hurted." *