Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2013 --- 12:02 p.m.
From our news partner, WLUK in Green Bay:
GREEN BAY - When he woke up, he couldn’t move. Worse, though, much worse: he couldn’t breathe. He had a lot in common with a pro football player 900 miles away.
Paul Farrell is a junior lineman on James Hubert Blake High School’s football team in Silver Spring, Maryland. On October 25th, in a rivalry game against Sherwood High School, Farrell was playing on special teams, the kick return unit.
He was blocking one opposing player, when a second came in and hit him; not hard, but at the wrong angle.
“I couldn't control my body when I was falling,” said Farrell. “I hit my head on the ground first, I went into shock. I blacked out and I couldn't breathe at all.”
Farrell was told he was out for a minute. He caught his breath, and could move his feet but little else. A helicopter took him to a nearby hospital. Feeling in his lower body came back. Doctors told him he should make a full recovery, but it could be 6 months to a year until he can regain full feeling in his arms to catch up.
“It's difficult at times, but it feels like everything is coming back,” said Farrell. “The feeling in my hands is coming back more and everything. I can't really feel my body when I'm getting dressed but that's about all.”
Doctors told Farrell he bruised his spinal cord. That’s the same injury suffered by Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, who was hit hard during a game against the Cleveland Browns, just five days before Farrell’s injury.
Talking to a friend, Farrell wondered out loud, how is Finley walking around already? “'I wish I could talk to him,” he said. “I gotta meet him.”
Farrell’s friend’s mother got in touch with Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz. The next day after wondering aloud what Finley was going through, the tight end gave Farrell a call.
“When he called me, I was just shaking,” said Farrell. “I was like, 'oh my God.' It was a blessing. I felt special, like, for an NFL player to call me, at a young age, to take time out just to impact somebody's life, it was good. It was a blessing.”
Finley, with Baratz on the line as well, asked Farrell about his injury, what he was feeling and going through. They compared notes, discovering their bruises happened around the same area of their spine. Both knew their injuries could have been much worse.
“I could've been paralyzed,” said Farrell. “[Finley told me] just to stay positive, keep fighting. Don't get down on yourself. That was mainly it. Keep fighting and stay strong.”
Farrell, unlike Finley, says his football career is over. Doctor’s orders. He can still play basketball; his focus is getting back to be able to play for his high school’s team. He hopes to stay in touch with Finley, who has also sent his support via Twitter.
“It was a pleasure speaking to a wonderful young man Paul Today,” Finley wrote on Twitter on November 15th. “Keep your head up, stay strong, and we'll get through this together!”