In the world of professional sports, it’s widely accepted that injuries are merely part and parcel of the game. Football is such a brutal and dangerous sport that every snap becomes another roll of the dice for every player’s physical and mental health.
For Denver Broncos wide receiver K.J Hamler, his fateful, life-changing moment came last season against the New York Jets when he contested for a catch in heavy traffic. Hamler actually remembers very little of the play which saw his career hanging by a thread after tearing his ACL and dislocating his hip.
Due to the resulting surgical procedure, Hamler was left without the use of both his legs initially, and afterward, the former Penn State standout had to use a walking aid to get around. Even bathing and toileting become massive challenges, with Hamler losing an astonishing 40 pounds of body weight in recovery.
Early into his rehabilitation process, Hamler also suffered the crushing personal blow of losing his grandmother, whom he credited with being as close to him as his mother. Such an all-consuming tidal wave of unfortunate events resulted in KJ descending into a dark place — until he found the courage to reach out for help.
“I checked myself into therapy, just to get out of the dump, you know," Hamler revealed this week on Broncos TV. "I didn’t want to. I think the worst, [and] the worst characteristic of a man is his pride. I had to really put my pride aside for that, and really dig deep and do it. Some days I don’t like it, some days it really helps. That’s just real life. I’m a person; I’m human, too. I’m not superman. I wish I could be a man made of steel but that’s just not how it works.”
Beyond his commitment to his mental health, Hamler’s physical recovery up to this point has been nothing short of miraculous. Hamler admitted that the real key to getting back into active service will be coordinating with the Broncos' medical staff so he can avoid any unnecessary setbacks.
“Physically, I’m ahead of schedule. You know, had little minor setbacks with little aches and pains, but that’s just part of the process,” Hamler said. “Sometimes the trainers got to calm me down a little bit, and then sometimes they got to ramp me up. I’ve still got like 10 pounds more pounds to put on, so I think that’s going to be … it’s going to be pretty easy, I think, if I put my mind to it."
Ultimately, it’s the mental battle that Hamler is winning that provides fans with legitimate insight into the internal fortitude of the young pass-catcher. For Hamler, it’s an ongoing process that he remains fully focused upon, and at the same time, proud of the progress already made.
“Mentally, I think I’m doing better. I’m not going to say that I’m fully OK because there are still things that I think about," Hamler explained. “When I’m in football [mode], I’m locked in. It’s just I want to do so much more and I know I’m capable of doing more. But I’ve got to follow the protocol of all this ACL and stuff like that.”