LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville sophomore Kevin Ware’s injury during Sunday’s “Elite Eight” showdown with Duke instantly became one of the most horrific in sports history. You don’t have to see the leg snap, or the bone break through – the reaction of the players on the Louisville bench says it all.
One athlete who knows all too well the bone-crushing pain Kevin Ware is going through is Joe Theismann, the former Redskins quarterback whose career ended in 1985, when his leg was broken midway between his knee and his ankle when he was hit by a New York Giants linebacker. Theismann watched the Louisville-Duke game, and like millions of viewers, saw the moment Ware’s leg broke.
“I got chills, I did, right away,” Theismann said. As soon as Ware went down, the injury and the aftermath began “bringing back and conjuring up memories of what I went through some 28 years ago.”
Theismann says he really believes Ware “will be back and able to play” and predicts “100% he’s going to come back.” But if this injury keeps Ware from going pro, the former NFL player offered some advice.
“I would say this to any athlete, whether you are injured or not, is make sure you get an education,” said Theismann. “One thing no one can ever take away from you is your education.
“Theismann reached out to Ware after the basketball player injured his leg, sending him a text saying, “I’m here for you for anything you need, let me know.” Ware texted back with a simple “Thanks.”
Such gruesome injuries, and their aftermath, are seared into fans’ and athletes’ memories. Theismann’s injury was voted the “Most Shocking Moment in NFL History” by ESPN viewers. The Washington Post called it “The Hit That Changed a Career.” Theismann said he knew right away that his injury was severe, not only because he saw everyone’s reaction to it, but also because he heard it.
“I head the break, it sounded like two muzzled gun shots over my left shoulder,” recalled Theismann. “The pain is instantaneous, and excruciating. And then all of a sudden, the body is such an incredible magnificent machine, from the knee down, my leg was completely numb.”
“I can close my eyes today, and lay down, and smell the smells, hear the sounds, feel everything that happened that particular night,” Theismann said.
Theismann has been following Ware’s progress. According to school officials, Ware underwent a two-hour surgery, where the sophomore’s bone was reset and a rod inserted into his tibia.
“They didn’t rod mine many years ago, and as a consequence my leg is 3/8 of an inch shorter,” said Theismann. “I’ve had residual effects of that over time.”
The school tweeted a photo of Ware today, already up and moving on crutches. Given the advances in medical treatments, and Ware’s age – he is just 20 – Theismann predicts a swift recovery for the Louisville guard.
“I think he’s gonna be back, and we’re gonna see him [be] one of the great comeback stories of next year,” Theismann said.