Devaun Swafford

DEVAUN SWAFFORD, 21, junior walk-on defensive back with Tennessee, made a tackle in the Gator Bowl on 1/2/15 and thought he was paralyzed.  “I went to tackle a guy on an out route, and I hit him, and my neck just snapped down, and my body locked up for probably five or 10 seconds,” Swafford said.  “It kind of scared me.  I thought I was paralyzed for a split second, but then I hopped up and went on with it.  After the game I remember my neck being stiff, but I was more concerned about my head because I had a concussion.”  Over time his neck healed, but in 2015 spring practice, “I took on a block like normal, like I always do, and I remember feeling this sharp pain in my neck for a split second.  I kept playing, and I finished practice and went on with it.  But then I got home and started playing my X-Box, and my arm started falling asleep, and I was like, ‘Dang, what’s that?’  But I still didn’t think too much of it.  But then I went to look at my phone, and every time I looked down, I started feeling a tingling sensation that you get when your arm falls asleep.  It was all the way down my left arm.”  Swafford continued to practice and didn’t say anything to Tennessee’s training staff.  The third warning sign came the following week, though.  And that one couldn’t be ignored. “I started feeling that same thing down in my spine, down to the middle of the back.”  Two MRIs confirmed a spinal cord contusion, a bruise on the spinal cord that could result in permanent paralysis if Swafford was hit with a certain force the wrong way.  “Over the course of the next month I started doing some thinking — some real-life thinking, thinking about my future family and all types of stuff like that, and I started thinking about not playing anymore.  I got insight from my parents, the rest of my family, my friends, my girlfriend, and they all told me they’d support my decision, so I decided not to play.  I just couldn’t take the risk of having an injury like being paralyzed or something. That’s serious stuff…They never mentioned dying or anything like that, but they did mention permanent paralysis, and that gets your attention.”–“Swafford ‘always a Vol For Life'”, 7/23/15, Wes Rucker.

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