Less than three weeks after suffering a near-fatal injury on the practice field, University of Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden was at the UH game on Saturday with Tulane for Senior Day.
During practice on Nov. 6, after a collision with a teammate, D.J. Hayden tore the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.
UH team physician Dr. Walter Lowe said later that injuries like that are 95 percent fatal, and that everything had to happen just right to save D.J. Hayden's life.
Remarkably, Hayden was discharged from the hospital six days after emergency surgery.
He had to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family back in the hospital after returning to Memorial Hermann for issues unrelated to the surgery according to his mother.
"It means a lot me being here because I just got out of the hospital," Hayden told the Houston media. "I told them I was ready to get out of there and if they weren't going to let me out I was going to break out. I'm just glad to be here.
Hayden said he will always remember Thanksgiving Day in 2012.
Yea, because I have a lot to be thankful for," Hayden said. "Thankful that I'm alive and I made it through the surgery. A lot of people came to visit me. I'm just thankful I'm here right now.
"Physically I'm sore. My chest, It's not healed all the way. My back hurts sometimes. It's just a matter of time. After a couple of weeks it'll start feeling better and better, but I'm feeling better than I first was, like when the surgery first happened. I'm progressing good. I've got a couple of open wounds, but I'll be alright.
D.J.'s mother was thrilled to see her son back at the University of Houston for a variety of reasons.
"It's awesome," Tori Hayden said. "It's just very, very special. He wanted to be here. He wanted to celebrate this day with his teammates and the rest of the seniors. It's just really, really awesome that he's able to just be here with us, let alone just be here for the Senior Day, but just to be alive. I'm just overjoyed. No words, it's just awesome.
"Me personally, I'm just grateful he's here participating. Actually, I'm just grateful he's here and he's alive."
During the game the University of Houston honored all of the people who took part in saving D.J.'s life.
In an interview with FOX 26 Sports on Friday Tori Hayden said this year's Thanksgiving was as good as it gets and she offered thanks to everyone connected to helping her son survive.
"It's special because my son is still here with me and I am so thankful to God number one," Tori Hayden said on Friday. "I'm thankful for (UH head athletics trainer) Mike O'Shea and his team of trainers. I'm thankful for the EMS.
"I'm thankful for the trauma team here at Memorial Hermann and I'm just so thankful he is just still here with me."
All of D.J.'s teammates wore his last name on the back of their jerseys during the game against Tulane.
He was really touched.
"Yea, I saw that," D.J. Hayden said. "That means a lot to me. That means they really care, showing their support (for) me and what happened.
"I'm thankful for them. I love all of them. I'm happy they did it. It shows how much they care about me and I really appreciate it."
D.J.'s mother knows his son will one day want to wear his own jersey again on the football field.
Dr. Lowe said it will take about a year for him to recover and that it is still possible D.J. Hayden could play football again.
"We're going to take it one day at a time," Tori Hayden said. "We're going to kind of assess it when the time comes.
"Knowing my child He's going to want to be back on that field. He loves football. He just loves it."