In his first public essay, former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette opens up about the tackle that almost ended his life. Published in The Players’ Tribune, he describes the details of his near-death experience while playing against the Dallas Cowboys during the 2015 NFL season.
Lockette took a dangerous hit that broke his neck, but made an amazing recovery and was given a second chance at life. The experience helped him reevaluate his priorities, like the importance of family, and reconnected him to his passions for helping others. He is proof that a single hit can change not only one life, but many.
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 — 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.
He goes on to describe his feelings and desperate prayers to God.
So you just lay there, trapped inside your own body while the world goes on around you. That’s exactly what it felt like, except I wasn’t in bed. I was at the 50-yard-line of Cowboys Stadium, surrounded by 90,000 fans. I said to myself, ‘Lord just help me. I know that I’m here for a reason. If you help me off this ground, I’ll change lives.’
This was the second time he had pleaded with that same request. The first was at a much younger age, when a gun had been pulled on him. But this time, things were much different, as he remembered that his daughter was in the stands. Her one request for her tenth birthday had been that she be allowed to watch her dad play that night in Dallas.
‘A Hundred Dollars and a Dream’
Lockette accounts for his prayers and thankfulness by revealing what many don’t know about his past. He wasn’t the big draft pick whose dreams came true when he was young. In fact, he recounts why on that day he knew what mattered most.
It’s crazy what matters to you when you’re in that situation. Cars, jewelry, big houses, Super Bowls? It all seems so meaningless. I came up from nothing. Undrafted, practice squad, released a bunch of times, then I made it to three Super Bowls in a row. I have a saying, kind of like a mantra, ‘A hundred dollars and a dream.’ When I came to Seahawks training camp as an undrafted rookie, all I had to my name was a gym bag full of clothes, my Fort Valley State receivers’ gloves, and a hundred bucks. Now, all of a sudden, I can’t move. And the only thing that mattered to me in the entire world was being able to see my family again, to hold my kids in my arms.
In his most touching moment, Lockette opened up about allowing his daughter to see him in a vulnerable position.
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.
While it may seem inconceivable, Lockette received surgery to repair his damaged vertebrae and within just a few weeks was able to walk and play football again. However, for the sake of his family, just a few months later he decided to retire from football, at age 29.
In a touching closure to his essay, Lockette thanks those who were there for him, including the EMTs and doctors who saved his life, and teammates such as Marshawn Lynch who helped him heal through laughter. He claims his new mountain to climb is giving back, and that he cannot wait to climb it.
To be honest, my NFL career was like a blur. It was an uphill battle on an unending mountain. My mission now is to help people get off the streets and back on their feet in any way I can. I need to repay the Lord for helping me get up. That’s my new mountain. I’m back at the bottom. I’m climbing and I’m climbing, and I’m meeting some amazing people along the way. Every person that I meet, I’m bringing them up the mountain with me.