This is a personal post that I thought I’d share to help someone going through injury or a major physical setback on what they love and enjoy doing. Like so many others over the weekend, I took some time to watch the NCAA Men Basketball tournament and had a chance to see the Louisville vs Duke game and view Kevin Ware’s leg injury as it happened and I immediately had a flashback to what happened to me some 21 years ago. While playing for the Atlanta Falcons, I had suffered a slight ankle break that caused me to eventually take an injury settlement and leave the team and fortunately have my football rights signed over to the Ohio Glory of the World League.
Playing for the Glory allowed me the chance to get back into game action and regroup for the NFL again. We traveled to Barcelona, Spain to play a game and during that game I suffered a dislocated foot, broken ankle and fibula all on one play that would eventually be the end of my playing career. Even though my leg was damaged, the injury looked extremely worse than what it was because my foot was going the complete opposite of what it should be and I can tell from the look on the guys faces that it was pretty bad.
However, the flashback that I had when I lay on the football field after suffering that injury, was not so much the pain that I felt but my reaction to what was going on around me. With all of the chaos going on with the trainers working on me, the coaches and players all watching with through their hands over there faces and even my own thoughts and feelings of panic, was starting to affect me. A memory that never fades was the peace and stillness that came over me as I lay on the field. It was my right foot that was broken however I calmly asked the doctor that was cutting through the tape and material on that injured foot if he could cut the tape off of my left shoe because I needed to get something important to me.
Everyone kept saying that “Hey, it’s your right foot that is injured”, however I kept insisting that they would cut the tape off of the left shoe. During my playing career I would always write on a piece of paper, the Bible Scripture, Philippians 4:13 – I Can Do All Things through Jesus Christ which Strengthens Me” and I would wrap this up with tape and put it in my sock. I would tell myself that no matter what happens on the field, good or bad, that I would still be standing on God’s word. Even though this injury would be the last time that I would ever step on the field again in actual game competition, I knew that if I could just get my hands on that piece of tape with those words on it, everything would be alright.
Now here is where it gets better because just like Kevin Ware as he lay on the court in excruciating pain, he had enough will and emotion built up in him to tell his teammates and coaches to “Go Win the Game!” This is what hit me the most because as soon as I heard this mentioned by Coach Pitino, I recalled what happened during our game. As I was laying on the stretcher to be taken off the field, the guy (linebacker) that landed on my leg came up to me pretty distraught and emotional and he kept apologizing and saying that he couldn’t play the rest of the game. I remember telling him in a firm voice to get back out there on the field and play! Keep playing and don’t worry about me. If you can’t play the game for yourself, then you better go play it for me! Even though I lay there in pain and with thoughts of this possibly being the last time I played, I truly believed that the strength and fire in that message that came out of me to that guy was from God.
Kevin Ware seem to be a good-hearted young man and I pray that the young man’s leg heal again to the point where he can continue playing and living out his dream. As an older man now I can advise him and others that are rehabilitating from injury, to give everything he has in this rehabilitation process and surround himself with positive people to get through the isolation periods and minor setbacks. I remember when I returned home after surgery, one of my football buddies (Larry Centers – Arizona Cardinals) left me a message on my answering machine that really encouraged me through the rehab process and I will pass it on to Kevin and others and that message was, “I feel sorry for that leg because I know you are going to work the hell out of it!” That’s what I did too!
Also I want to encourage him further that for some reason, if his leg will not heal to the point of resuming his basketball playing career again, one thing that’s not broken is the ability to dream again. A year after my injury and at this present time, thanks be to God first, the doctors and medical staff, my family and close friends, I am walking and running fine and I’m still dreaming and working hard on my dreams. Yes, I get a little emotional thinking back on those times however I’m at peace because I can truthfully say that I practiced and played the game with everything I had in me. So go to work on that leg and keep dreaming young man, keep dreaming because You got plenty of life and achievements ahead of you!