<
>

Hixon on Everett's encouraging news: 'It was a big relief'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Kevin Everett can move again and
Domenik Hixon can smile again.

For 48 hours, despair enshrouded the Denver Broncos returner who
was on the receiving end of Everett's devastating hit that left the
Buffalo Bills' backup tight end with a life-threatening spinal cord
injury.

Doctors grimly predicted initially that Everett would never walk
again.

"It was a tough couple of days just thinking about it," Hixon
said. "He ran into you and all of a sudden his life changes.
That's tough to deal with."

Hixon was sitting at home Tuesday night when his father called
with the stunning news that Everett was moving his limbs on his own
in what doctors were calling a minor miracle.

"It was a big relief," Hixon said. "That just brought a smile
to my face. Prayers were answered. The power of prayers, man.
Hopefully, he makes a full recovery."

On Wednesday, Everett was successfully removed from the
respirator though doctors say it could be a struggle to keep him
breathing on his own. A stroke and blood clots in his legs are
other possible complications they are trying to prevent.

He showed more ability to move his legs and a little more in his
arms, but has no movement or function at all of his hands. He is
getting nourishment from a feeding tube, and his mother is at his
side.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family," Hixon
said.

Everett sustained the injury Sunday after ducking his head while
tackling Hixon during the second-half kickoff in Buffalo. He
dropped face-first to the ground after his helmet hit Hixon high on
the left shoulder.

Hixon didn't realize the seriousness of the injury at first.

"Normal play, to be honest," Hixon said. "Just a real solid
hit. He hit me hard, just kind of like the wrong way. My whole left
side is still sore today, you know? It was definitely a big hit. I
knew it was."

What Hixon didn't realize was the severity of Everett's injury.

"I knew it was a strong, hard hit. When he was laying there for
a while and they brought out the ambulance, I was just hoping it
was a precaution," Hixon said. "We had a similar situation with
Karl Paymah [in the preseason] and I was just hoping it was
precautionary. Once I heard the news and everything, you know, it
just hurt my heart."

In the last nine months, the Broncos have seen this situation
unfold four times, with linebacker Al Wilson during a game in
December, linebacker Warrick Holdman during training camp, with
Paymah during the preseason and with Everett. All were strapped to
body boards with their heads immobilized while players all around
them circled in prayer.

Wilson's neck injury led to his release and he might never play
again. Holdman is on injured reserve and Paymah, hurt in the
preseason when he was kneed in the helmet, missed the opener.

"I don't care if you're playing junior high, high school,
college, pro, there's a risk that's involved with football and you
just cringe when something like that happens to anybody at any
level," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Shanahan said the team was elated Wednesday with word of
Everett's progress.

"That was a freak accident. In fact, there's probably 20 hits
in that game that were probably more vicious that than hit,"
Shanahan said. "You heard what the doctors were saying, you didn't
think there was much of a chance for him to have a recovery. You
just feel so good that it looks like he will.

"I just hope he continues on the same road and he walks out of
that hospital. Everybody was very excited in our locker room when
we heard the news today."

None more than Hixon, who has spent the last few days in deep
reflection.

"You re-evaluate a lot of things and just simple things in life
you take for granted," Hixon said.

He'll wait a while to contact Everett, however.

"He needs his rest," Hixon said. "At the right time, I'll
talk to him."