My dad always told me when I was little … “Don’t work to just be the guy in the jersey on Sundays. Work to be the guy in the nice suit that’s in the suite of the stadium making all the decisions.”
I had not thought about that message much until Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015. The day after my neck injury during my freshman season.
I never thought twice about playing again following my freshman year. The University of Arkansas medical staff and others I spoke to provided me all the information I needed to be fully confident in my decision to return to the field. I gained a lot from playing again during my sophomore season. Things that no one can ever take away from me. I led the SEC regular season in rushing in my first season as a starter. I threw a touchdown pass (thanks Coach Enos). I grew with my teammates. I stayed healthy. I proved to myself that I could do it at the highest level in the SEC.
Spring ball can be a grind. The 15 practices challenge you mentally and physically, but the opportunity to get better each day is something I’ve learned to never take for granted. This spring ball was extra special to me. I was getting to share the final weekend with my mom, dad, brother and sister.
For the 15th time this spring I suited up. I prayed in my locker and took the field by double-taping my chest twice before pointing to the sky.
An outside zone run to the left side. I’ve run that play literally hundreds of times in my college career. Maybe more.
This outside zone run to the left would be my last.
Not again. I remembered the feeling. It didn’t last as long so I wasn’t as nervous, but I knew something was wrong. I knew that it was similar enough to the last time.
Everyone got to me quickly. When they tested my hand strength I could squeeze, but it was really weak and I could barely feel it. I was trying to calm everyone else down. I remember thinking and then saying “Everything is coming back to me. I can feel my body. Let me get up please.”
My family is the most important thing in my life. The first thing I thought when it all happened was the reaction of my mom, dad, sister and brother. I didn’t want them to go through this all over again. I just wanted to stand up to calm them down and show them that I was ok.
I’ve seen the replay. I saw a normal hit. That scared me. It shows me it doesn’t take a big hit at this point. Any little thing can trigger it. I also saw the reaction of my mom and my sister. That broke my heart. I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to walk.
I’m moving onto the next chapter of my life. It’s tough to not be able to play football anymore because I’ve been playing since I was four years old. It wasn’t something I wanted to do or planned on having to do so early. I’ve prayed, listened to my doctors, my parents and my gut.
It still doesn’t seem real yet, but I really don’t have a choice. I’ve dodged the bullet twice. I realize that at the end of the day I want to live a normal life and be around my family.
The most fun I’ve ever had in my life has been being part of this team the last two years. Playing with my brothers, learning from coaches, the workouts, the preparation, the grind, the games … we sacrificed a lot. Now that I can’t play anymore I wish I could sacrifice more.
Coach B has been someone I’ve looked up to since the day I met him. He’s always been there for me. I’m grateful to him for the opportunity to play football at the University of Arkansas and in front of the best fans in college football. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’m going to earn during the rest of my time here. I can’t wait to work under him and learn. I want to be a General Manager one day and he’s already helped me look into career paths to achieve my goals.
Thank you to the thousands of people who have reached out to me. I appreciate it more than I can ever explain. It’s inspiring to know people care about you not only because of your ability, but because of the person you are and what you stand for. I’ve used my gifts to play football, but my gifts aren’t just playing football. I can’t wait to give more.
“Don’t work to just be the guy in the jersey on Sundays. Work to be the guy in the nice suit that’s in the suite of the stadium making all the decisions.”… That is now my goal. To be the guy in the nice suit in the suite. To do whatever I have to do to gain more knowledge about the game in all ways. Just like I did when I was a player.
I am very grateful. It is sad but I truly believe God has a plan for my life. I believe I’m going to be blessed more than I could ever imagine. Even though my plan isn’t going to happen, I know that his plan is better than my plan.