There are times in all of our lives when we get knocked down. The only way to get back up is to fight. Fight to get back on our feet and fight to keep moving forward. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a mistake, and sometimes it threatens our very existence. Still, we grab ahold of that drive inside of us all and use it to fuel our comeback. D. J. Hayden knows exactly what it means to have dug deep within himself to get back up.
During practice in November of 2012, Hayden was attempting to break toward a pass that was thrown his way. The safety was also breaking toward the same pass. As they both went up to make a play on the ball, the safety’s knee caught Hayden in the chest. Hayden’s own words explain how normal the day was, “It was a regular day at practice. We were doing team vs. scout team. They threw the ball my way. Me and the safety ran into each other. His knee hit me in the chest. I fell to the ground. It felt like I got the wind knocked out of me. When I was breathing, I just wasn’t breathing.”
It was a normal football collision, but the result of the collision was abnormal. Hayden’s Inferior Vena Cava (IVC) had torn. This is a common injury attributed to car accident victims, but this had never been seen in a football collision before. It’s an injury that usually results in death. Yet, Hayden didn’t let this happen to him. Even as he lay on the ground with his heart bleeding out, he fought back. Life was working against Hayden, but he would not let it get the better of him. Hayden was rushed to a hospital where emergency surgery had to be performed to repair the torn IVC. He should have died, but he went on living.
As a matter of fact, six weeks after the injury and surgery, Hayden was back on his feet running and performing football drills. He strengthened himself and prepared himself for his dream. The dream of being an NFL football player. On the horizon was the NFL Combine and then the NFL Draft in April of 2013. For his Pro-Day in March of 2013, Hayden ran the 40 yard dash in 4.33 seconds. Not too bad considering that only 5 months before his Pro-Day he didn’t know if he’d ever play football again. When Hayden was cleared by NFL doctors and after his Pro-Day in March of 2013, his draft stock began to rise. Soon he was on NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock’s radar. Hayden was the number one defensive back available in the 2013 NFL Draft, and with the 12th pick in the NFL Draft, he became an Oakland Raider.
The NFL journey has begun for Hayden, and the Oakland Raiders are making sure that he is ready. Head Coach Dennis Allen is making Hayden wear a red “no contact” jersey in training camp. This is being done to allow Hayden’s abdomen to heel fully from the surgery that was performed in June of 2013. The surgery was just to remove some scar tissue that had formed from his initial surgery that repaired his IVC. Still, the Raiders coaching staff is taking no chances. The funny thing is, Hayden has been observed running onto the Napa, CA, training fields without the red jersey. Once the coaching staff realized it, he was instructed to put it back on. Hayden has tried to participate in hitting drill only to be denied. It is apparent that he is mentally ready to be involved in an NFL collision, but the coaching staff is making sure that he will be physically ready as well.
Recently, Hayden suffered a hamstring injury that will sideline him for a few days. As a result of the hamstring injury, he will miss the first Pre-Season game scheduled for Friday, August 9. Still, this will give Hayden some extra time to fully strengthen his midsection. As far as how he has looked in practice, Hayden has only been burned a couple of times. He usually shuts down the receiver he is covering. If a receiver catches a pass while being covered by Hayden, it is usually with Hayden hanging on his back. We will all have to wait to see what happens when he is involved in his first collision, but I believe that Hayden has prepared himself physically to withstand anything that comes his way. He is a fighter, and, in the end, Hayden will overcome all the odds that were stacked against him.
Once again, my friend, and fan of Just Blog Baby, Fernando Maestas has provided us with an inspirational video about D. J. Hayden. Please click on the link below and enjoy Hayden’s incredible story: