The game of football is a brutal one that can end a career in the blink of an eye. Head injuries and frequent concussions have forced numerous players to retire early, and it's becoming a frightening trend in the NFL. Former Seattle Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette was among those young players exiting the league too soon, but it wasn't on his terms.
Last November, Lockette's career ended after taking a blindside hit while covering a punt. He was left face down on the turf in AT&T Stadium as more than 90,000 fans held their collective breath, hoping Lockette would bounce back up and be in on the next play. That didn't happen.
Lockette announced his retirement in May after just five years in the NFL. On Tuesday, he opened up about the hit and what he felt afterward in a piece for The Players' Tribune. In it, he discusses how he wondered if he would die right there, and not knowing how to handle the situation.
I hit the ground, and I heard the sound you never want to hear. When you have a brush with death, people always say you see a light. Well, I didn't see a light. I heard a noise. You know the noise I'm talking about â like when you were a little kid, bored at a family party, and you ran your finger around the top of your auntie's wine glass. It's that weird, far-off ringing sound.
It was terrifying. I couldn't hear the crowd. I couldn't hear my teammates. That's when I knew it was bad.
Lockette wondered "Am I about to die?" as he wrote in the piece, wondering if he was deaf and paralyzed, too. Had he gotten up, even if he was able to, Lockette likely would have made his condition far worse. Instead, he had to remain on the turf in the middle of the field.
In that moment, I was completely helpless. You know what it felt like? Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Imagine you wake up from a dream early in the morning, and you can hear everybody in your house making breakfast and talking and laughing, but you can't move. No matter how hard you try, you can't actually get up. You're stuck in between being asleep and being awake.
After the hit, Lockette was put on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. He remembers the trip vividly, saying "10 minutes" felt like they passed as slowly as 10 days. He was still in his "navy blue Seahawks pants and my bright green cleats" upon arriving to the hospital where his daughter was waiting to see him.
He recounts the first time he saw his daughter in the hospital room.
It took me a good hour to compose myself before I told the nurse to let her in the room. That was more painful than the actual hit. That was the worst 60 minutes of my life. I wiped the tears out of my eyes and went into Daddy Mode.
But when she came in, oh man. That's everything in the world. That's why you keep fighting.
The whole piece is well worth reading, and can be found at The Players' Tribune website.