Less than 24 hours after suffering a heartbreaking leg fracture against Duke Sunday afternoon, Kevin Ware's long return from a gruesome injury has already begun.
On Sunday night, the Louisville guard underwent a two-hour surgery to have a steel rod inserted in his leg. As early as Monday morning, he was seen already moving around with crutches.
While the groundwork is already encouragingly set for a physical return, a major hurdle in a injury like this can be overcoming the mental aspect. Fortunately, it doesn't seem like Ware will have that problem, as he was willing to talk openly about the injury and the moments directly after it (all quotes via ESPN's Dana O'Neil).
First, he spoke about his thoughts directly following the nasty fall:
"I jumped and my leg felt kind of funny," he said. "When Coach P tried to help me up, he gave me a funny kind of look. I'm looking at him and then I look down and I see my bone sticking out. It wasn't a hurt feeling. I just went into shock. In the moment, you don't know what's wrong with you. You're just looking, thinking, 'How did this happen?' I never watched the replay. I never want to."
Try to imagine looking down and seeing your own bone sticking out of your leg. While—as Ware points out—the initial shock would likely help limit the actual pain, it would be impossible to stay calm in a situation like that.
Not for Ware.
As his teammates were collapsing around him in sheer terror, and everyone around him was shielding their eyes, he was the one who kept everyone relatively grounded:
"Seeing Chane [Behanan] cry as hard as he ever cried, and Russ [Smith], Coach, all of them, I just looked at Coach P and said, 'You gotta pull yourself together. Tell the guys to come over here,' " Ware said. "They came over and they were still emotional but I meant it. I told them, 'Don't worry about me. I'll be fine.' I just had to block the pain out and put my situation on hold. I never back down for a challenge and to me, that's what this is. Just another challenge. I'll get through it. I wanted them to know that."
Um, yeah. That right there is the definition of a warrior in the sports world. You never want to see such an awful, saddening injury happen to anyone, but in the hours that have gone by since that tragic play, it has become apparent that Ware is the type of player who can overcome such a thing.
And as if you needed any more evidence of the young man's Teflon-strong character, it was him giving peace to his parents moments before his surgery on Sunday night and not the other way around:
"He didn't even say hello," Lisa Junior said. "He just said, 'Mom, I need you to calm down.' He knew I'd be a mess. Once I heard his voice, I was better."
You would be hard pressed to find a 20-year-old more successfully handle such an abominable situation. If it wasn't already clear, it's now apparent that Ware has the disposition to return from this injury stronger than ever.