Thursday, December 18, 2008
Collier to attend Jaguars game, will join team for coin flip
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Richard Collier, paralyzed from the waist down following a shooting in early September, was expected to return to the field Thursday night and be recognized during pregame ceremonies.
Collier, whose left leg was amputated below the knee after he sustained 14 gunshot wounds just days before the season opener, was expected to be one of the team captains during the coin toss. He also planned to watch the game between Jacksonville and the Indianapolis Colts from a luxury suite with family members.
Collier returned to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for the first time since the shooting Wednesday and spent time around teammates and in the locker room.
But getting wheeled onto the field could be even more emotional.
"He can't wait to get around here," said linebacker Clint Ingram, one of Collier's closest friends. "He's been talking about it ever since the beginning of the season."
Collier spent more than five weeks in a hospital and spent the last two months at a rehabilitation center in Jacksonville, strengthening his upper body and relearning many simple tasks.
Collier and former teammate Kenneth Pettway were waiting for two women outside an apartment complex early Sept. 2 when a gunman fired into the vehicle. Collier was shot in his back, left groin, left leg and right buttock. A bullet severed his spinal cord, causing the paralysis, and his lower leg had to be amputated because of blood clots. The player was on a ventilator for two weeks and endured infections, bouts of pneumonia and renal failure.
The Jaguars have paid tribute to Collier all season by keeping his locker intact. But getting him on the field could provide some closure for Collier, teammates, coaches and fans.
"That'll be good for him to get back around and get around everybody," Ingram said. "Everybody can kind of put it to rest and see his face and see that he's doing well, and now maybe people can stop worrying as much or being as stressed out as they were."
Tyrone Romaro Hartsfield has been charged with attempted murder in Collier's shooting. He pleaded not guilty but remains jailed without bond. Authorities believe Hartsfield retaliated against Collier for an altercation they had earlier this year at a nightclub.