December 18th, 2011 will forever be etched in the brain. Injuries began to riddle the team with QB #1 breaking his hand, and the team rallied behind QB#2. The team was on a three-game losing streak and looking to stay in the playoff hunt.
The down was third, and distance was six on own six-yard line. The play comes in from the sideline. We rush to the line of scrimmage and get set. I had a return route, a six-yard out then back under. WR #1 had a Bang 8 (post) route. We break the huddle and get aligned. WR #1 had a long-distance route, so he was on the line of scrimmage.
The ball is hiked, and everyone sprints into their routes. As I break out and return. The ball is thrown and completed to WR #1 as he makes a big catch to get us out of our territory. He jukes one defender with his gracious step back move. He jukes another defender, but he gets his hand on the ball and WR #1 fumbles.
I see the ball on the ground, and my reaction is to recover or tackle the defender who has it. I have no clue what happened to my teammate, WR #1, after the fumble. Sometimes, when an offensive player loses the ball, he is upset at himself for the mistake. So, seeing him on the ground, I assumed he was all right and just disgusted with his performance.
After I make it to the sideline, I noticed WR #1 grabbing his back and trainers aiding him. Once I saw the cart come out, I knew we had a bigger problem than an athlete disgusted at his performance. We now have a severe injury that could be life-threatening.
The Jumbotron at Soldier Field replayed the hit. My heart fell, and my mind could not grasp what my eyes were seeing. Watching my teammate’s helmet touch his buttock was not something God intended the body to perform. This gruesome injury would shake the entire team.
Right after the game, we head to the hospital where we learned they performed emergency surgery to the spine. WR #1 was in a back brace, and his stellar career was over. A hit that almost paralyzed a guy I’m in a meeting with every day.
WR #1 was my guy. A family man from Channelview, Texas who was a joy to play with. Seeing him walk today nearly 8 years after the incident warms my heart. A true testament of faith and courage. #StoryTimeWithEarl