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Finding Hope and Courage on Christmas Day

Sports Business News and The New York Times—December 25, 2008

This time of year, we tend to seek stories of courage and inspiration.

Last April, Reggie Williams drove up from Florida, expecting he might need to outfit his car with special controls for driving with his left leg, in case his right leg was amputated.

Williams is a former linebacker for the Bengals who played in two Super Bowls and was a supporter of Nelson Mandela while a member of the Cincinnati City Council. But he limped away from football with artificial knees, and a lingering infection in the right one, and last spring he left a lucrative job with Disney to see if doctors in New York could save the leg.

When I caught up with him, he was just out of the hospital, where doctors had saved him from a leaky aneurysm in his leg. He was resting in a Manhattan apartment, his leg a moist, purple horror refusing to heal. A few weeks later we went out for lunch; he had to stick a Velcro IV unit on the wall so the antibiotics could drip into the leg. Friends privately shuddered at his prospects.

"If I doubted for a moment, the fear was real," he admitted the other day.

Such brave people. Sometimes when I reached Reggie Williams, he sounded cool, but it turned out he was in the hospital. In July, the leg began to heal. On Aug. 19, he received a second artificial knee. On Sept. 5, he had another procedure to clean the implant. Then he began reintroducing his linebacker body to the complexity of motion. He thanks Dr. Stephen J. O'Brien and all the other medical stars at Hospital for Special Surgery.

As the holidays approach, I smile whenever I think of Reggie barreling down the interstate, a linebacker who got his mitts on the football, heading for the end zone. I wish the same blessing he received for all the other good people I met this year. (source New York Times)


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