Former Seahawk Ricardo Lockette sees each day as a special gift, after being nearly paralyzed during a game. But the end of his football career was the beginning of a new chapter that will be even bigger than the Super Bowl.
Lockette now walks with others on the path to recovery and is turning one of the worst events of his life into one of the best.
“When I was laying on the field, it was probably one of the scariest days of my life,” Lockette said.
He was a world-class athlete at the top of his game until he hit rock bottom, and a violent blow left him staring into the lights.
“Yeah, the top of the stadium and you know, like I say, it was a bad day,” Lockette said. “I don't really want to go into details about it.”
Unable to move, his spine was fractured. Neurosurgeon Dr. Rod Oskouian was watching at home.
“When I saw him put his Legion of Boom hand up, I was thrilled,” said Dr. Oskouian.
The stadium lights then turned into the lights of an operating room.
“He was praying that he would recover,” Dr. Oskouian said. “And if he would recover, he would dedicate his life to spinal cord injury, spinal cord injury research.”
Dr. Oskouian shepherded Ricardo through rehab and said his recovery is near miraculous. Now, the former NFL star spends much of his time at the Seattle Science Foundation.
“I think I do call him Dr. Lockette,” Dr. Oskouian said.
“I feel like I'm here for a reason,” Lockette said. “I don't feel like that was a mistake. I feel like there's something big I was saved for and I feel like this is it.”
At this non-profit, they are creating the world's first-ever 3-dimensional atlas of the spinal cord.
When it is finished, doctors or researchers will be able to see any section of the cord in 3-D. So while Ricardo reached the highest heights with the Hawks, but this is his new team.
“I wanted to feel the same way I felt about us getting a first down,” Lockette said, “or blocking for Marshawn or Russell. I feel the same way about this, but now I'm blocking for that person on Pike Street. That mom in Tacoma. I'm blocking for that uncle in Sammamish.”
He recently met the governor and advocated for research in front of the state House, but he is most at home meeting patients, often walking around the room, showing off a spinal cord like he did when Coach Carroll and the Seahawks came by.
“His enthusiasm is infectious and when he comes around, people are drawn to the lab,” said Seattle Science Foundation’s Shane Tubbs. “It's something that people may be a little squeamish about. When he's in there, he bridges that gap and makes everyone feel at ease.”
Ricardo seeks out those who suffer an injury like his.
“Because he was so close to being paralyzed, he can really sympathize with people who are in that position. And for patients it's a huge thing for them,” Dr. Oskouian said.
Lockette is taking his second chance and running with it.
“I made it from not feeling anything on my entire body to changing mankind,” Lockette said.
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