Above: Being prepped to leave the
Top right: At the Manning
Camp in summer 2014 with my
quarterback, Chris Mauck. We
have been friends since we were
8 years old.
Left: Here is my first game back
on the sidelines after getting out
of the hospital.
Right: I have not yet been cleared
Lower left: I found out I could play
if I got stronger.
Far lower left: NFL wide receiver
Leonard Hankerson has been a
big part of my family’s life. I wear
No. 85 as a tribute to Leonard and
Lower right: With family friend
and NFL legend Mark Duper.
Below: Me with the best
teammates in the world – No. 21
Daniel Pinkerman, No. 1 Keilon
Stube and our QB, Chris Mauck.
Bottom: Me with my family.
Mary’s Hospital for surgery. What followed was a 20-minute
ambulance ride with the lights going, and I had the feeling
like I was really in trouble.
When we got there, the surgeon did another CT scan and
wheeled me right in for surgery to remove my spleen. I had
no idea how serious this was but figured it out pretty quick
as I was in the hospital for six days and during that time
my intestines and stomach completely shut down. I lost 20
pounds during those six days and was told definitely no more
football for my sophomore season. I missed one month of
school and was struggling to come to terms with why this
happened to me. Why is God testing me by letting me start
the season so strong and then taking it all away from me in
It had been one month when I returned to school and I was
far behind my teammates, but I insisted on being at every
practice. I was rehabbing and felt like I was getting stronger
every day. I really started to feel like I could come back,
but convincing my mom was going to be tough. I was still
10 pounds lighter than the day I got injured, and I was sure
mom was not going to entertain the conversation. So I got
my father to take me back to the surgeon, who would know
better than anyone, to check me out. He said it was amazing
how quickly I had healed and told me I would need two more
weeks of rehab and have to gain five more pounds and I
could come back for our playoff run.
I was pumped, and my mom was cool about it. The doctor
explained that the spleen was gone, and there could be no
more damage. The school and community of Berean Christian had rallied around me. This story almost brings tears
to my eyes as I write it, because getting the chance to play
a home game in front of all
those people meant so much
to me. Hearing my name over
the loudspeaker as I made my
first catch since returning and
hearing all those fans erupt
in the packed stands brought
shivers up my spine.
Then, in my second game
back it happened: I caught a
slant and took it 33 yards for
a TD – my second game back
from injury and I had done it. I
proved that I could fight back
from this and play at the same level.
A lot of people were scared for me to return – teachers,
coaches, students and our athletic director. Even the trainer
and I had a crying session together on the sidelines the first
time she saw me. The only person that wasn’t scared, amazingly, was me. I knew that once God had tested
me and was in my corner, nothing was keeping
me from getting back on the field. I felt like my
team needed me and was a better team with me
out there. Those 30-something teammates who
wore my jersey at games to show their support
and who put my number on the back of their
helmets to show their love; I wanted to be with
them in the fight through the playoffs, and I did it.
The day I got injured I was 6-foot- 2, 148
pounds. I’ve worked the whole offseason and I
am now almost 6-foot- 4, 162 pounds. I’m hoping to be 170 pounds by the start of my junior
season. I finished my sophomore season with
20 catches, more than 400 yards and 8 TDs.
A few of my teammates and I are going
to camps all over the country this summer
(Clemson, N.C. State, North Carolina, Harvard,
Princeton and Arkansas), and we can’t wait to
get on the field!