First and foremost, sports build community. If you choose to live in the realm of hating your opponent and criticizing your team’s performance at every turn, you’re totally missing the point. Players, both collegiate and professional, give their all for a chance to be a part of something greater than themselves: their team.
When a player is injured on the field, teammates rally to their side. When they’re injured off it, though, the feeling hits home even harder, and fan bases show their true colors. A former Florida Gators linebacker, and later a member of the Oakland Raiders, Neiron Ball is in the fight for his life, and his former teams are rallying support for the 26-year-old and his incredible story.
Hailing from Jackson, Georgia, Neiron Ball was named first-team All-State as a defensive lineman in 2009 after racking up 104 tackles, 19.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles as a high school junior.
When Ball enrolled at Florida in 2010, he contributed right away during his freshman season as a special teams standout, appearing in all 13 games. Then, his medical issues began, and Ball missed the entire 2011 season after complaining of terrible headaches.
Ball was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation, which is the tangling of blood vessels in his brain, and it required surgery.
“I can’t really explain it,” Ball said in 2012. “The closest thing I can think is somebody just smushing my brain… Like somebody was squeezing my brain.”
In a remarkable comeback, Neiron Ball returned the next season to play in 32 games for the Gators over three years until a knee injury ended his senior season after nine games.
After a second remarkable comeback, Ball recovered from the micro fracture after only five months to impress NFL scouts, and he was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Ball appeared in six games as a rookie, made two starts, and he sacked Josh McCown of the Cleveland Browns on September 27, 2015.
It would be his only career sack, as injuries forced Ball out of football after two seasons.
The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation (TAAF) posted an update to their Twitter page on Tuesday afternoon stating that Ball was in a medically-induced coma. Neiron suffered an aneurysm, and the foundation believes it was caused after his operated AVM “was obliterated.”
What followed was an outpouring of support for the beloved athlete from across the football community.
From the information available, Ball’s condition seems very much in the hands of time, and the care of the doctors who are with him.
With the amount of support he’s gathered during his incredible journey, there is no doubt Neiron Ball has the strength to pull off one more incredible comeback.