To My Body,
I remember the last thing I felt from you. It was your heels hitting the ground and then you went completely numb. I remember laying there and the trainers asking me if it was my head or my neck and could I feel this or could I feel that.
I remember my coach looking down on me saying, “E! You have to pray.”
You couldn’t move. You wouldn’t breathe. Honestly, I thought you were giving up on me and our life was about to be over. But it wasn’t …
In just 29 years, you and I have been through quite the journey. But as our relationship has evolved and changed, my true purpose has been revealed.
As a kid our existence together was simple. It was great! You made me the biggest, strongest and fastest kid around. Because of you I hung out and played sports with a lot of older kids. Playing with older kids made me confident and popular. Plus, it made me an even better athlete.
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As a freshman in high school, I got an offer from Rutgers. So I knew early on you were going to play division one football. While later on you also got offers to Notre Dame, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Florida State and Miami, you decided to stick with Rutgers.
My freshman year wasn’t easy for us. You changed positions on the field several times. Plus, my girlfriend and I had broken up in the middle of October, so I was dealing with that, too.
Sophomore year was totally different. It was a blast. We found our home at the nose guard position and started to get really good.
I never really thought about you and all your talent. When someone is young they don’t think about their abilities until something terrible happens. Unfortunately, during my junior year of college something terrible did happen to you.
It was October 16, 2010. We had the game tied up, 17-17, against Army with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. We were running down the field and I am thinking we are about to make a big play for the team. We were facing a double team that game, which means two guys were coming at us at once. One tried to block us. He missed and you were able to get right through him, giving you about a 30-yard head start on this guy.
We were about to make the tackle and I said to myself, “Do I want to use your head or do I want to use your shoulders?”
And I said, “This might be a huge collision, I am going to use your shoulders.”
As we went to make the tackle one of our teammates got there before we did. I put your head down thinking we’re going to use your shoulders to make the play. The guy’s body twirled in the air and the crown of your head went right into the back of his shoulder blade and that is what caused the accident.
We got carted off the field and I wanted to give a thumbs up to the crowd but you just wouldn’t let me. It felt like there were a thousand pounds of cinder blocks weighing on my hand. I saw my mom and my sister in the endzone. My mom was hysterically crying. I tried to tell her everything is going to be OK. They put us in the back of the ambulance and they put an oxygen mask on you. Then we tried to take deep breaths but you couldn’t make that happen. It scared me. From there, I blacked out and didn’t gain consciousness until four days later.
I woke up to a room filled with posters, cards and jerseys. A whole bunch of my friends and family came to see. It was all positive energy.
I couldn’t feel anything from you at all, except your neck, which was a little sore from surgery. Because of you, my life turned upside down. At first, I questioned my love and my commitment to the game, but then it quickly turned to thoughts about trying to get us back on that football field. As we were laying there unable to move, I was praying. I was believing. I had faith in God. But according to doctors, it wasn’t looking so good.
I didn’t find out until a few weeks later but they told my mom that you had fractured your C3 and C4 vertebrae. They told her you would be paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of our life. You would need to be on a ventilator, unable to breathe on your own for the remainder of our life. You would be on a feeding tube, unable to eat solid foods for the rest of our life. And that was if you even made it through surgery, as they were concerned you weren’t strong enough to survive the operation.
But you sure showed them. When we went to rehab you started to take a turn for the better and you were able to come off the ventilator just five weeks later. You also returned to eating solid foods and enjoying a good meal.
It’s been nine years since your injury. You can’t walk yet, but I believe you will walk again.
I try to do whatever you allow me to in therapy. While you have made progress, you have also hit plateaus over the years. But we work hard to keep your muscles strong, so when that cure does come you will be ready for it.
The most important lesson I have learned is patience. As you know, I still don’t have much of it but I am learning everything isn’t instant gratification. I try to fall in love with the process.
In the meantime, I sometimes get frustrated with you.
The hardest part is not being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Like what if I wanted to take a pretty girl out on a date?
I have to be confident enough to say, “Hey, can you come to pick me up and bring me?”
I have laid in bed and just cried to myself thinking, “If things were just easier…”
I don’t stay in those moments too long, though. I get to have five minutes of pity towards you and then it’s like, “Alright, this ain’t doing nothing for me.”
I know you aren’t fighting against me. Plus, I do realize how fortunate I am to not only be alive but to set an example for others facing challenges in life.
I remember back around 2011 or 2012 a blind kid came up to us.
He said, “I may not be able to see the world but after hearing you speak, I see that I can do whatever I want.”
His words made me realize that while you were good at football my true purpose in life is to influence people, to motivate them and to show them through hard work and determination anything is possible.
I want people to look at me as a hero. I want people to see that I believe in my dreams and I am doing whatever I can in my power to make them happen.
And when that cure comes, together, we are going to go back to MetLife Stadium and we are going to lay back on that 25-yard line, hop up off the ground and hopefully, you can run off that field. If you can’t run, you are going to walk. If you can’t walk, you are going to limp like an OG pimp. Whatever you can do, we are going to get off that field and we are going to finish that last play.
So if you take anything from this letter, know that it’s coming. Keep riding. We will get back to being Big Sexy again. Please, just don’t give up on me
With great hope,