Please allow me a few inches in this space for some personal thoughts.
Just wanted to say a quick word of thanks to several of you who read this blog for your emails and phone calls over the last month or so checking on my absence and health since the first part of October. Your thoughts and prayers were and are very much appreciated, and let me assure you that I felt them.
Let me just give you a quick background: for about a year I've been experiencing "sciatica" in my left leg, but it wasn't enough to slow me down. On Oct. 7, I experienced what it was like to be slowed down by this pain. On the Saturday of Homecoming (Oct. 9), I was lying in an MRI tube at Hendrick Medical Center being checked from head to toe to find out where my suddenly debilitating pain was originating from.
Turns out I had two bulging discs in my back (L4 and L5) that would require surgery. For about a month I waited to get in to see a local neurosurgeon (more on him in a minute), but in the meantime I went through two injections into my back that allowed me to return to work a few days in October. However, because of severe pain, my most comfortable position was lying on my stomach on the floor of our living room.
Fortunately, I was still able to do a lot of work, and my fantastic assistant, Phillip Dowden, carried our office the entire month of October and into November. Phillip, can't thank you enough for everything. You've done a great job, and you're going to make a wonderful head SID when your time comes.
I missed five of our last six football games of the regular season, almost every home soccer and volleyball match of the fall and several other events. Missing each killed me; in my 13 years at ACU I had missed exactly one football game and not many more home events during the fall / winter.
Anyway, on Nov. 7, the pain became so severe that my wife took me to the hospital where I was admitted and given the "good stuff" to make me comfortable. Still able to work from my hospital room, I was able to put together football game notes for the ACU-Southwestern Oklahoma State game as well as write a few other things.
Finally, on Nov. 10, Dr. Talmadge Trammell repaired the disc at L4, taking the pressure off my sciatic nerve and helping me to return to a pain-free existence. Let me just make this quick aside: if you EVER have any trouble with your back or spine, run -- don't walk -- to see Dr. Trammell. He is a brilliant doctor and surgeon and the people in Abilene should be grateful that he chose to return to his hometown to open his practice.
Finally went back to work on Monday (Nov. 15) and am excited to be back amongst my friends and colleagues, as well as our teams and student-athletes.
Being down this long makes one appreciate a lot of things, but most importantly it makes me thankful to my Lord and Savior, who provided me with caring family and friends and with a team of doctors and nurses who were able to help me get back to good health (at least physically; never been too sure about the mental aspect).
It also makes one appreciate family that takes care of you and loves on you; friends who support and check in on you; co-workers who are understanding of a terrible situation; a church body that prays over you and makes sure you and your family are thought of each and every day; and a place to work that lifts you up in prayer more than it questions when you're going to return to work.
Can't say enough wonderful things about my beautiful wife, Jill, who took care of me, pushed and prodded doctors to get me earlier appointments and listened to me gripe ... because, shockingly, I'm not the greatest patient. My kids, Rex and Ashley, who never let their disappointment show that their daddy couldn't do much for about five weeks, choosing instead to tell me each day that they loved me and hoped that I would "feel better soon." My parents, who let me stay at their house during the days in the early days of this situation when I literally couldn't do anything for myself.
Thanks to my good friends the Boones and Bullingtons for constantly "talking me up" to Dr. Trammell on Sundays at Highland Church of Christ, and to another good friend, Dr. Shannon Cooke, for helping alleviate the pain and maybe doing me a favor and helping me get in to see Dr. Trammell almost a month before my scheduled appointment.
To my boss, Jared Mosley, associate AD Vince Jarrett, and most everyone on our coaching / administrative staff, thanks for your understanding, and I hope we don't go through this again. And to Coach Wally Bullington: your thoughts and prayers and daily phone calls to check on me mean more than you'll ever know. NOW I know why your former players are so loyal to you. Thank you for showing us all what it means to be a Godly man.
To my great friend and ACU assistant vice president, Ron Hadfield. We've worked together for 13 years and shared many laughs and good times, but he showed what it's like to be a true friend by doing what he didn't have to do over the last half of the football season when he took over a lot of the writing responsibilities for our football team. Ron is a terrific writer -- one of the best you'll ever read, and I don't care who we're talking about in comparison -- and he wrote every football game story that appeared on our Web site from the Oct. 9 game through the end of the regular season. He made trips to luxurious locales like Portales, N.M., and Canyon to cover games for me, and his willingness to pitch in and help out when he didn't have to shows the character of this great man.
I know I'm forgetting people, and I know this isn't something you usually read in this space, but I felt compelled tonight to let the readers know why Phillip has been carrying our office and to thank the people mentioned above, as well as my great friends Dr. Cheryl Bacon, Michael Bacon, Kate Bacon, Chris Thomsen, Kyle Robarts, Grant Boone, Garner Roberts, Dr. Charlie Marler, Grant Rampy, Lynne Bruton, Pat Agnew, Jimmy Pogue, Mike Miller, Allen Wilson, Danny Barefield, Jim Lowery, Todd and Rebekah Mullins, Jeremy Enlow, Willis Glassgow, Chris Woods, Kellen Mock, Hutton Jones, Britt Bonneau, Brandon Stover, Shawna Lavender, Jason Copeland, Amber Weems, Cory Driskill, Jack Kiser, Roosevelt Lofton, Casey Wilson, Bobby Reeves, Mike Campbell, Lisa Murphy, Karen Warner, Roberta Bender, as well as others I know I'm forgetting.
So, hopefully (knock on wood), I'm ready for the second season in football, basketball season and an exciting upcoming spring season. As we head into a season of Thanksgiving, I know for sure I've got plenty for which to be thankful.