NFL dreams, a horrible injury, and life after a miraculous recovery

“Right after college in 2000 I began pursuing my dream of playing pro football. I was a defensive back in my rookie season playing arena ball for the Tulsa Talons when I got the attention of the Kansas City Chiefs. They invited me to fly out for training camp. I was beyond excited! In a game the Friday before camp was slated to start, I broke up a pass play, tripped over a receiver and slammed into a padded wall. The impact broke a vertebra in my neck. It left me paralyzed from the waist down.”

“The doctors told me I’d never walk again. I cried like a baby, it felt like for hours. I thought, my life is over. I’ll never play again. I’ll never be a husband or a father. It was hell. You feel trapped while the world goes on around you.”

“Thankfully, it wasn’t long before I found positive thoughts coming into my mind. I started thinking about Special Olympics and other opportunities I might have. I remembered what a coach used to tell me: ‘Dig!’ That word always motivated me so I made it my own. I turned it a phrase:  Determination, Intensity, Guts. That embodied what I was going through at the time. There were days I wanted to quit my rehab work. I didn’t think I could keep at it – it was just too hard. D.I.G. kept me going.”

“I feel lucky to be alive and grateful for my new path.”

One day after about two months, something amazing happened. I could feel sensation in one toe! The doctor couldn’t explain it. After that happened, I’d gain sensation in different places for a few days, then just as unexpectedly it would disappear. It went back and forth like this. But it gave me hope. I dug harder in physical therapy. When 4 months passed, I was fully mobile again. A miracle.

“After my recovery I started playing football again, playing better than ever. Some NFL teams talked to me, but my injured neck was a deal breaker. So, I learned to let go. Some dreams die, and others come true. I met Shirley who’s the love of my life. We have a beautiful daughter Aubrey who’s the light of my life. I feel lucky to be alive and grateful for my new path; I’m the owner of a workout studio — another dream of mine — called CORE Fitness.”

“My staff is great. We motivate each other, we support each other. It’s the closest I’ll have again to being on a team. And with everyone who walks in the door at CORE I push them to DIG! I call on my experience and I say, no matter your goal you have to have the Determination to start and the Intensity to hustle hard. But the key is Guts. You’ve got to have the guts to push through the hardest times.”

Jojo in the gym

JoJo pushes and inspires his gym students with some tough love!

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