Father’s Day has carried added significance to Prince Shembo over the past few years.
The Atlanta Falcons rookie linebacker is thankful to be able to have a conversation with his father on the phone; thankful he can look his father in the eyes.
For a moment back in 2011, Shembo thought he would never get to cherish such moments ever again.
"I thought my dad was going to die," Shembo recalled. "If you would have seen him, you would have thought the same thing."
During Shembo’s sophomore year at Notre Dame, his father, Maurice, was at the hotel the day prior to the Michigan State game and suffered a brain aneurysm, which can be fatal in some cases. The elder Shembo said he was in a coma for five weeks and was airlifted from South Bend, Ind., to a Chicago-area hospital during the process. After surgery and extensive rehab, he now declares himself "100 percent" healthy.
Prince Shembo called it a miracle.
"He was at the Notre Dame hospital and my coach, (Bob) Diaco, drove me there," the linebacker explained. "My dad was like shaking. His head got real stiff. It was like he was paralyzed.
"A lot of tears were shed. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I thought it was just going to be my mother, myself, and my sister. I just prayed."
Maurice Shembo would be the first to say his son’s prayers were answered.
"It took me almost a full two years," the elder Shembo said of his recovery. "Thanks to God, after a year, I had another MRI and they said there was no sign of it (my) brain. I don’t feel anything. I had to learn how speak, how to walk, and everything in life. I like food so I couldn’t wait to start eating again.''
Maurice Shembo is back home in Charlotte now and even volunteered at Steve Smith's youth camp this weekend, as he does annually. And the elder Shembo still marvels over his son’s transition to the NFL.
Prince Shembo was a fourth-round pick of the Falcons as an outside linebacker. He was immediately switched to inside linebacker, where he’ll have an opportunity to compete for playing time after veteran Sean Weatherspoon went down with a season-ending Achilles’ tear.
"It’s been an adjustment," Prince Shembo said of moving to inside linebacker. "I’ve just got to work on my eyes. Everything is different. Things come from both sides.
"I used to pass rush a lot. Now, I’m doing a lot of drops and playing man to man. It took me a couple of days, but I’m starting to get accustomed to everything. I just have to keep on studying. It’s more mental than anything."
He’ll have full support from his father along the way.
"Prince is a hard worker, a good worker," Maurice Shembo said. "The sky's the limit for him. He still has a big opportunity in front of him. This is just the beginning of his NFL journey."