After just two seasons, New York Giants running back David Wilson is being forced to retire at age 23 due to a neck and spinal condition.
Wilson first injured himself last season, when he suffered a herniated disc, but he was later diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal. This restriction puts pressure on the spinal cord and can cause neurological damage. Following a spinal operation this summer, Wilson was on the upswing. During a recent practice, however, he severely aggravated the injury, and doctors advised him to quit playing football.
Yesterday, Wilson officially bid farewell to the game, addressing the media as well as his family, friends, teammates and fans. Watch the video of his emotional speech, and read the following transcription, sent out by the Giants (via SN Nation), of the subsequent Q&A.
David Wilson: Hey, everybody. I'm not really prepared to answer a lot of questions today, but I'll try to do my best on some of them. I'm going to start by saying that at a young age I had a dream to play in the NFL. I did that. I played in the NFL and I scored touchdowns and I broke tackles and I broke and set records. I practiced with my teammates, got to play for Coach Coughlin, got drafted by the Giants. So at no point should anybody feel like this is over, because in life everything has obstacles. We all go through our own obstacles every day. The main thing is, when you're going through those obstacles, to stay focused and embrace faith and keep your dreams. Even if one dream seems to fade away, set another goal and set another dream and try to reach that. That's the main thing.
Life will knock you down sometimes. I realize that I knew that since a young age. Everything hasn't been smooth sailing for me, hardly ever. I try to put the smile on my face and make other people happy. That's what I enjoy in life. I continue living. When life knocks you down, I always say plan to land on your back because if you can look up, you can get up. But if you're flat on your face, that can kill your spirit. Always think of it in that aspect—"if you can look up, you can get up. So far, I can look up, and I plan on getting up and living my dream and setting another one for me to live out.
Q: Is it too early to tell what you want to do with the next phase of your life?
I know... I have a couple ideas. As far as that goes, I guess you will just have to follow closely and see where I go from there.
Q: You were so optimistic, even the day before, on Twitter. Were you shocked when the doctors told you the news, or did you kind of sense that it was coming?
I prepared for both sides. You can't ignore the facts. Like I said, I always try to find the best in situations, so when I knew I was going into that situation, I'm looking at the best side. No need to dwell on the negative side and dwell on the negative. You start to dwell on the negative and you start to feel sorrow. You don't want to ever dwell on that moment, because at that point, you're not living.
I'm still living and I'm still healthy and doing the things that I can do, except football. That doesn't last forever, anyway. Mine's been cut short and I've accepted that. I appreciate the opportunity from the Giants of being able to play and being up here and doing all the things I love.
Like I said, when I was a little kid growing up, my dream was to play in the NFL, and I did that. I set that goal when I was real young and I set small goals in between, because setting one big goal and just expecting to get there the next day, that's very unlikely. I set small goals, like I want to be the fastest guy on my team. From eight years old—I'm speaking from when I was really young—I'd wake up and say, "I want to be the fastest on my team. I want to score a touchdown. I want to be the starter. I want to score the most touchdowns on the team. I want to break the records." I got to high school and I broke records that were set. I reached those goals. As you continue to reach more goals, the pressure builds up, and when the pressure builds up, the intensity increases. It gives you a thrive and a drive to keep going. You can do great things when you get that. You start doing these things and accomplishing these goals and getting closer to your dream and then people start to support you. The thing that wakes you up every day is that you don't want to let those people down.
When it started off, I didn't want to let my parents down. I always tried to do the right thing by them and honor my parents. Very religious, it says, "honor your father and mother." I tried to do that to the best of my ability. More and more people started supporting me. My whole school, all my teammates... all my teammates start supporting me. Once again, I'm speaking from high school, college. Your teammates start to support you. Then a whole city gets behind you and at that point, you don't want to let your city down, you don't want to let your family down, your friends down, your teammates, teachers, all these people supporting you and helping you reach your dream.
Then you go to college and the whole state supports you. Then you go to the NFL and you have all these NFL players, great players that will probably be in the Hall of Fame one day, and they support you. Coaches that have won Super Bowls, they get behind you and they support you. That's just been a great feeling, man. These are tears of joy. Don't for a second do you all think that I'm pitying myself or sad—because I got to live my dream. I'll set another dream and be great at that, because I always look at trying to be great at whatever I do. I always had the aspect because in order to get a scholarship, you've got to have grades. When you get those grades, you have to be the best in your class. Try to be the best in your class. My competitive spirit always raised me up to excel and do what I can there. I always say I'll be looking at my teammates this year, and forever, that I played with wishing them the best. Every time I watch a Giants game or a football game and see people play that I actually had a chance to meet, I want to watch them go on the field and I want to see them try to be great—because it can be taken away. When they go on the field I want to see them, every Sunday or Thursday or Monday... I want to see those guys do great and be great and push themselves. That's where my joy comes from. I've got a long life to live. I'm 23 years old and I've been blessed with an amazing head start, being drafted in the first round. And to a great organization with the Giants, which supports me. I've been told that by the head leaders of the organization. They support me in whatever I do, and if I need anything, don't hesitate. I plan to be all right.
These are just tears of joy because as I speak, I realize how much people have helped me along the way. When you push the pause button, you get to look at that. But I plan on pushing "play" real soon. Moving on in future endeavors, I'm excited.
Q: Is this the first time you've gotten emotional?
This is the first time. Like I said, it's more joyful tears. It's not because I can't play anymore. Like I said, in speaking to you all, I've realized how many people supported me and believed in me.
Q: From last Tuesday until the final decision Monday, what was going through your mind?
When I tell you all I remained positive and stayed positive, that's what I did. I'm not saying it because I'm in front of the cameras and have microphones in front of me. When I'm by myself, I stay positive. That's what I was all the way through this whole thing. I expected to come back. I trained. I was limited because the doctors didn't want me to put too much strain on my body, because it could affect the healing process. I had all intentions in playing the 2014 season with the Giants. I trained and prepared that way and went out to practice every day, ran hard, learned the new playbook. At no moment was I negative or thinking about not playing.
Q: When the burner happened last Tuesday to when you got the final decision, what was your process there?
It's scary. It was a scary feeling, you can't hide that fact. But at the same time I felt fine afterwards. I felt perfectly fine afterwards and was still optimistic. We said we were going to see the doctors and see what they said. They looked at the MRIs and they saw what they needed to see and they felt that nothing had really changed. But at the end of the day, the doctors wouldn't clear me because it was a risk for me to be out there with my condition. All the way up until that point I was optimistic, but at that point you just have to do what's best for your life. The doctors did that and I prayed that the doctors would give me the same answer that God would give me if I asked straightforward. We don't have that capability. I can ask, but God works through people. I asked him to do that with the doctors and they gave me the answer. That's why I'm comfortable with that answer.
Q: What changed from when they cleared you a week before to what they saw on Tuesday?
No, it was... everything was fine, the MRIs. That's what I was told. The doctors have dealt with situations like this before, and they know the best answer to give me so I can live and have a healthy life. I don't have a family yet, and I want to have one and I want to be able to enjoy it.
Q: Did you give any thought to seeing other doctors, fighting the diagnosis? I don't even know if it's physically possible, but trying to find someone who would clear you to play?
That crosses your mind, but at the same time these doctors did everything they could to get me back on the field. At that point why would they tell you something that wasn't accurate and they didn't feel was in your best interest?
Q: Are you going to need any additional procedures on your neck?
No, I'm fine. Just football.
Q: Any ideas what you want to do now? Coaching, announcing, anything, staying close to the game and staying close around here?
Yeah, all those things come into mind. Like I said, you'll just have to follow [Wilson's Twitter and Instagram handle] 4stillrunning closely to see what he does next. Whatever it is, I'm going to try to be great at it and thrive in it.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock