Cornerback D.J. Hayden being drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the 12th overall pick is nothing less than a miracle.
On Nov. 6, Hayden was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent emergency heart surgery to save his life. The injury he suffered has a 95 percent fatality rate, but he survived. Less than six months later, Hayden was drafted higher than anybody could have imagined, even before his injury.
His old college teammate, quarterback Case Keenum, summed up the excitement of the Houston football program to see the culmination of a comeback for a player who was unanimously voted team captain last season:
— Case Keenum (@casekeenum7) April 26, 2013
For those who haven't heard Hayden's entire tale, it's worth repeating (and you can catch up with the extended version here).
Hayden collided with safety Trevon Stewart on a routine play in practice. Stewart's knee Hayden in the chest. Nobody knew it at the moment that Hayden tore the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body back to the heart. That injury has never been documented on a football field before. It's usually found in major car accidents and usually results in death.
Some quick reactions from the University of Houston athletic training staff, the first responders and some expert surgery at Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute saved his life. He lost about 25 pounds after the freak injury. But when he recovered and ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at his pro day on March 18, he started shooting up draft boards.
Hayden is a very good player who will immediately help the Raiders' depleted secondary. There was talk before the draft of Oakland drafting him third overall, but the Raiders traded down and still got their man.
For Hayden to be drafted at all, much less with the 12th pick, is unbelievable given what happened last November.
"It'll be a great story," Houston athletic trainer Mike O'Shea said earlier this week. "Just to be alive is a great story."