Lions' Mike Utley paralyzed, football career over

Updated: October 14, 2005, 5:13 PM ET
By Larry Schwartz | Special to ESPN.com

Nov. 17, 1991

The joy of Erik Kramer's touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter that gives the Detroit Lions a 14-10 lead is tempered by the sight of guard Mike Utley laying on the ground in the Silverdome. Utley can't move.

Utley is blocking the Los Angeles Rams' David Rocker when Rocker leaps to deflect Kramer's pass and comes down on Utley's head and neck. Unable to move his legs, he is down on the field for several minutes, moving only his arms, before he's taken to a hospital.

"When they carried him off on that stretcher," says Lions center Kevin Glover after Detroit's 21-10 victory, "I saw him move his hand. He gave me the thumbs up sign, like he wanted us to win. Can you imagine thinking about the team at a moment like that?"

Utley has a spinal injury that paralyzes his legs and ends his football career. He will launch the "Thumbs Up" campaign, a foundation for spinal-cord research.