Six weeks after suffering a near-fatal injury during practice, former University of Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden was cleared by his doctors on Friday to begin light workouts.
Hayden, who suffered the injury on Nov. 6, went immediately to Plex in Sugar Land to spend some time on the stationary bike and the elliptical machine.
"It definitely is one of the biggest days of my life," Hayden said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. "It meant a lot to me because I've been in the house watching everybody else work out and I've been itching to do something because I really can't sit still.
"It meant that I'm healing and getting better."
On Nov. 6 Hayden suffered a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart. The injury is fatal 95 percent of the time according to UH physician Dr. Walter Lowe.
"I thought this day would never come," Hayden said. "I'm truly blessed to be actually riding a bike. So I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful that I can break a sweat right now and I'm just happy be almost normal again.
"It's a big step in my recovery process. I can't wait to get back to actually running, lifting weights again and backpedaling, catching the ball, throwing the ball. Just get back to my usual routine.
In looking back on when he was told the severity of the injury, Hayden said it took some time for him to digest the fact that normally only 5 percent of those with his injury survive.
"I had to sit down and like really think about it," Hayden said. "I was crying. I was just thanking God.
"I'm so blessed to be here. I'm just so happy."
Hayden hopes to begin backpedaling drills in two weeks. He said his doctors have told him he should be completely recovered in six months and ready for football activities at some point during the summer.
His goal is to play in the NFL.
"People remind me every day that I'm a miracle, I'm a miracle," Hayden said. "I don't feel like I'm a miracle.
"I'm just regular, silly D.J., but yea I do have some who believe I'm somewhat of a miracle. At the end of the day it happened, people can learn from it, get inspired by it and I'm here and we're still breathing.
"Just move on to the next day."