There are plenty of people who are surprised that D.J. Hayden is even alive right now. But he overcame a tremendous injury in practice for Houston and not only survived, but was selected No. 12 overall by the Oakland Raiders on Thursday. Hayden tore his inferior vena cava, a crucial vein, and has yet to put pads on since, but says he’s ready to give it a go in the NFL.
D.J. Hayden joined 95.7 The Game in San Francisco with Bucher and Towny to discuss being selected No. 12 overall, working out for the first time after surgery to repair a torn vein near his heart, what he remembers about the day he suffered the injury, his mindset now and being taken by the Raiders.
After all that you’ve been through, what was it like for you and your family when you found out you were drafted No. 12 overall?:
“It was just a true blessing. Just for me to be picked 12 overall, it was just crazy. From where I came from, because I’ve been through some trials and tribulations, I should say, and just for me to overcome my injury and all the odds is just amazing.”
After your heart injury and surgery, when was the first time that you worked out and what was that experience like?:
“I was at … a workout facility that I’ve been training at. My trainer, he wasn’t even there. I was there early, and I was just in there just backpedaling. I’m kind of fresh, just two to three weeks out of the hospital, and I’m still kind of skinny, and my back was still kind of hurting me. I was just out there trying to test myself to see where I was. I kind of sprinted a little bit and I kind of broke a sweat. I got so happy, I got so excited then.”
What do you remember about what happened to you during that practice leading up to the injury?:
“Basically me and the safety … went up for a ball and we collided into each other and his knee hit me in my chest. I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. I’m kind of gasping for air and trying to get my breath back, but I couldn’t get it back. … All of the sudden, I can’t see anything. My left eye goes pitch dark and I can barely see anything out of my right eye. … They call the ambulance and rushed me to the hospital. The doctors did a scan of my stomach to see if I had any internal bleeding, and I did. They thought I had my spleen ruptured. … They cut my stomach, all my organs were good, and then they had saw through my sternum. They saw the … vein and they saw that it was tore, so they just stitched it up.”
What’s your mindset at this point?:
“Now I’m just thankful to be here. Again, I just need to shake the rust off. I haven’t been out in pads, with helmets on, since that day. … My mindset is just, I don’t feel like I’ll be timid to get out there. I just have to go out there and do it. I could sit here and tell that I’m going to hit everybody. … I just have to get out there and actually get a lot of reps — just keep pounding and pounding and pounding into the ground.”
On joining the Raiders:
“It feels good just for them to even consider me to come help them win and play games. … The Oakland Raiders, they have a lot of tradition of having great DBs, and for them to want to invest their time into me, I’m just truly thankful.”
Why should Raider fans be excited they picked you?:
“Because I’m a great dude, hard worker, love to compete. I’m just ready to come in and make plays and play good football.”