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.

Michigan meets with refugees as part of Italian Spring Break trip

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Michigan is in Rome for Spring Break and Jim Harbaugh determined an act of charity would be the Wolverines’ first item of business upon landing on Italian soil.

After landing in Rome at 9 a.m. local time, the Wolverines immediately headed to the Borghese Gardens, where they distributed backpacks filled with blankets, shirts and shorts to refugees.

“What an experience,” quarterback Wilton Speight told the Toledo Blade. “I saw on the itinerary that we were going to have an opportunity to meet some refugees, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this where we could dive into each other’s lives and teach each other a thing or two about our background, our culture, our favorite sport. It’s been a cool experience.”

And for those wondering, Harbaugh has not reduced his Harbaugh-ness while overseas. In fact, the dollar-to-euro conversion may have actually increased it.

Former Tennesse RB Jalen Hurd to play WR at Baylor, per report

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Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd will become Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd, according to a report from ESPN’s Jake Trotter.

Hurd announced on Halloween he would leave the Vols roster, seeking a change in position as well as scenery. After visits to Ohio State and Louisville, Hurd trekked to Waco for the Bears’ spring game on Saturday, where he indicated on Twitter afterward that he would become a Bear.

Trotter filed afterward, citing a source, that Hurd will indeed become the latest member of the Bears’ wide receiving corps.

Hurd is a physical freak that will excel at whatever position he plays. As a 6-foot-2 running back, he toted the rock 589 times for 2,635 yards with 20 touchdowns in his three seasons as a Vol. Now, as a 240-pound wide receiver (though it’s likely he’ll slim down now that he no longer has to prepare for a season of between-the-tackles running), he’ll display the skills that saw him catch 67 passes for 492 yards and six touchdowns.

As an undergraduate transfer, Hurd will sit out the 2017 season before joining the team in 2018. He will have one season to compete as a Bear.

Updated: Georgia releases OL signee D’Antne Demery after battery arrest

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Georgia offensive line signee D’Antne Demery was arrested Saturday night in Athens for allegedly battering his girlfriend.

In the hours after Georgia’s G-Day spring game, officers were called to an Athens Waffle House where witnesses saw Demery place hands on a woman. Police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, and tracked the victim down at a different establishment.

The Macon Telegraph obtained the police’s account of the incident:

“Upon arrival, both individuals had left the area. Moments later, the victim called 911; advising that she wished to press charges against D’Antne Demery for hitting her. Contact was made with the victim in front of Boars Head (sic). She stated that she and Demery got into an argument; he began to get loud, she started to walk off, he told her ‘walk off again, and Imma show you’. She began to walk away again, at which point, Demery came from behind her; grabbing her on the back of her neck; pushing her against the wall, and also grabbing her by the hair.”

After the first assault, Demery again attacked the victim:

“able to reconnect with the victim, in which he threw her; causing her glasses to fall off, and her phone fell out of her hand; causing it to hit the ground which resulted in a crack to the screen.”

Demery admitted to placing his hands on the woman, and the victim said this wasn’t the first time he had been violent with her. The couple shares a 1-year-old child.

Demery was booked into the Clarke County Jail at 10:52 p.m. Saturday night, where he remains at press time on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass and simple battery.

Demery was a consensus 4-star recruit hailing from Brunswick, Ga. Kirby Smart has not offered comment on the arrest as of press time.

2:18 p.m. ET Update: Georgia has cut ties with Demery. The school’s statement:

“University of Georgia football signee D’Antne Demery has been released from his National Letter of Intent according to an announcement by UGA head coach Kirby Smart.  The release follows Demery’s arrest Saturday night on charges of simple battery, criminal trespass-damaged property in downtown Athens.

“The Brunswick, Ga., native signed with UGA in February and was scheduled to report to the University in June to begin classes.”

QB controversy in Tuscaloosa? Freshman Tua Tagovailoa impresses at Alabama spring game

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Alabama’s annual A-Day spring game took place at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday and those tuning in to the Crimson team’s last minute 27-24 win over the White team had to be especially impressed with the Tide’s explosive offense under new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In particular that comes at the quarterback position, where there might be more of a controversy at the spot than first thought. Incumbent Jalen Hurts was very sharp on his downfield passes but his strong outing (301 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) was overshadowed by true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who simply stole the show down in Tuscaloosa.

The early enrollee signal-caller from Hawaii jumped onto the scene in the first half of the game and wound up completing 17 passes for 313 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while working with both the first- and second-team offenses. You could normally dismiss numbers put up against a team’s second-string defense, this is Alabama we’re talking about so you know it’s coming against numerous future All-SEC players.

Tagovailoa did throw a pick-six in the second quarter but that was mostly because linebacker Terrell Hall made an unbelievable play on a swing pass to snatch the ball out of the air and run it all the way back to the opposite end zone. Freshman tailback Najee Harris (70 yards rushing) as well as stud wide receivers Calvin Ridley, Robert Foster and Jerry Jeudy (134 yards, two scores) also stood out on Saturday.

In all, offense ruled the day as the two quarterbacks combined for over 600 yards through the air. That probably won’t make reviewing film with Nick Saban all that pleasant for members of the secondary next week but was probably good news to most fans after lackluster performances down the stretch to end last season.

Either way, everybody should probably start brushing up on how to pronounce Tagovailoa even if he doesn’t ultimately unseat Hurts as the starter because the young QB has lived up to the early billing by recruiting analysts.