Johnny Holland

JOHNNY HOLLAND, 50, linebacker with Green Bay, 1987-93, was kicked in the head by Michael Irvin on a tackle, felt tingling in his extremities as his legs went numb, and lay motionless on the Texas Stadium turf in a 1993 playoff game versus Dallas.  Holland, who had suffered a herniated disc in his neck and had fusion surgery the previous year, returned to the game in the second half and finished with 11 tackles in a loss. “I wanted to believe in my mind that I wasn’t hurt, that I could still play.”  One wrong hit could’ve confined him to a wheelchair for life. “Oh man,” said Holland. “I was very fortunate I didn’t have a hit in that game to really damage it and, you know, become paralyzed.”  For years, Holland felt “invincible.” All pro athletes do, he said, until they’re not.  For those with career-ending neck injuries it’s particularly excruciating to accept.  Holland spent a full weekend with his brother (and agent) to talk it through and accepted his football mortality.  The transition wasn’t seamless.  It took Holland a full three years to accept he was done. “It’s something you’ve done for 15-20 years.  And then all of a sudden, it’s over.  There’s no more football.  You can’t cross those lines and play again. You can’t put that uniform on again.  It’s a tough, tough moment in your life.”  Holland went on to coach with several NFL teams, including Green Bay, and he’s at peace today.–“Former Packers adjust to life after neck injuries ended their NFL careers”, js.online, Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel, Tyler Dunne 5/31/15.

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