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Houston corner continues rapid recovery from near-fatal injury

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With the holiday season fast approaching, how about a little Christmas cheer to end the year?

In early November cornerback D.J. Hayden collided with a Houston teammate and tore the inferior vena cava, the major vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.  The injury, normally associated with high-speed vehicle crashes, carries a 95-percent fatality rate.  Thanks to “the quick action of UH training staff and hospital personnel,” it wasn’t fatal in Hayden’s case.

Following emergency surgery to repair the damage and a week-long hospital stay to begin what was expected to be a lengthy rehab process, Hayden was released.  Six weeks later, Hayden is progressing more rapidly than expected as he was cleared Friday, FOX26 in Houston reports, to begin light workouts.

While working on a stationary bike and the elliptical machine might not seem like a lot, it was a significant step in the player’s recovery.

“It definitely is one of the biggest days of my life,” Hayden told the television station. “It meant a lot to me because I’ve been in the house watching everybody else work out and I’ve been itching to do something because I really can’t sit still.

“It meant that I’m healing and getting better.”

While it took some time for him to come to grips with how close to death he actually came — “I was crying. I was just thanking God.” — Hayden doesn’t consider it a miracle that he survived such a devastating injury.

“People remind me every day that I’m a miracle, I’m a miracle. I don’t feel like I’m a miracle.,” Hayden said. “I’m just regular, silly D.J., but yea I do have some who believe I’m somewhat of a miracle. At the end of the day it happened, people can learn from it, get inspired by it and I’m here and we’re still breathing.”

The station writes that “Hayden hopes to begin backpedaling drills in two weeks… [and] should be completely recovered in six months and ready for football activities at some point during the summer.”

Despite how the injury took place, Hayden’s goal remains the same: playing in the NFL.  Seeing how he’s fought back against these long odds, I’m not betting against him.

South Carolina DB Ali Groves takes medical hardship, will remain on scholarship

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The injury-plagued career of a member of South Carolina’s secondary has officially come to an end.

USC officials confirmed to The State that Ali Groves will not return to the Gamecocks football team. The defensive back has taken a medical hardship waiver, making him ineligible to suit up again for the Gamecocks.

The Georgia native will, though, remain on scholarship. He’s expected to graduate later this year with a degree in business administration.

A three-star member of USC’s 2013 recruiting class, Groves was rated as the No. 47 safety in the country. Groves sustained a right shoulder injury his true freshman season, with the injury lingering over the next couple of seasons as well.

This past spring, Groves, who didn’t play a down for the Gamecocks, was moved from cornerback to safety. Twice in his career, Groves was named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

Four-star 2017 QB Kellen Mond, an ex-Baylor commit, verbals to A&M

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 31: Texas A&M Aggies mascot Reveille runs onto the field before a NCAA football game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Kyle Field on October 31, 2015 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images)
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Baylor’s recruiting loss will turn into another football program’s gain.  Again.

On his Twitter account Monday, 2017 quarterback prospect Kellen Mond announced that he has decided to verbally commit to play his college football at Texas A&M.  Mond had been considered the crown jewel of Baylor’s 2017 recruiting class after committing to the Bears in the summer of 2015, but opted to decommit less than a week after Art Briles was dismissed as BU’s head football coach.

Shortly after decommitting from Baylor, Mond announced a new Top 3: Auburn, Ohio State and A&M.  Those schools were listed in his order of preference at that moment, although the Aggies were, obviously, able to make up ground on the other two.

Mond visited College Station earlier this month, and, coupled with the Buckeyes landing a verbal from five-star quarterback Tate Martell — a former A&M commit, incidentally — had seemingly pared his choices down to the Tigers and Aggies.  According to his tweeted announcement, A&M’s “tradition of excellence,” along with the coaching staff, led him to his latest commitment.

Mond, a Texas native who is playing his senior season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is rated as a four-star prospect on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. That recruiting website rates him as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 103 player overall.

Pitt joins trend of stadium-wide beer sales for football games

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Ohio State announced earlier this month that it would be offering cold beers to all of-age fans during football games this fall in The ‘Shoe.  A couple of weeks later, a fellow FBS member to the east has followed suit.

As part of its press release on new fan initiatives for the 2016 season, Pittsburgh announced that beer will be sold stadium-wide throughout Heinz Field this upcoming football season.  Prior to this season, alcohol sales were only permitted to those ticket holders in the club and suite sections of the stadium.

The first opportunity for fans to take advantage of the new policy is the home opener against Villanova Sept. 3.  The ACC opener Oct. 8 against Georgia Tech.

From the press release:

The expansion of this amenity will coincide with the implementation of appropriate safety measures for Pitt game days, ensuring the continuation of a fan and family friendly environment for all. (Such measures are already in place for Steelers home games. Aramark, Heinz Field’s official food and beverage concessionaire, provides comprehensive staff training in the sale of alcohol.) A portion of the funds from beer sales proceeds will be dedicated to drug and alcohol education programs for the overall student body through Pitt’s Division of Student Affairs.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there are now nine Power Five members with a similar beer policy for football games.  One of the nine is West Virginia, with the Post-Gazette writing that athletic director Scott Barnes cited data from WVU “suggesting that beer sales in the stadium could actually cut down on alcohol-related incidents.”

Houston’s Howard Wilson granted medical hardship waiver

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Not surprisingly, one member of Houston’s secondary will get back the time he lost last season.

According to a press release from the Houston sports information department, Howard Wilson has been granted a medical hardship waiver for the 2015 season. Wilson sustained a season-ending torn ACL in the third game of 2015, making the decision to grant the waiver a no-brainer.

The waiver will extend Wilson’s eligibility clock through the 2018 season, and makes him a redshirt sophomore for the upcoming season.

As a true freshman in 2014, Wilson played in all 13 games, starting one of those contests. He had three interceptions that season.

Prior to his injury, he started the first three games of last season. He’s projected to start at one of the corner spots for the Cougars entering summer camp.