Deion Sanders recently was a guest on NPR’s “The Limits with Jay Williams” podcast that aired this week, when he shared a very personal story about his injury recovery and the painkiller medicine withdrawal he went through. The Pro Football Hall of Famer and head coach of Jackson State football discussed a recent series of injuries and surgeries that got very serious.
Last fall Sanders suffered complications from toe surgery, and his doctors were concerned he could lose his leg. He had eight surgeries, lost a lot of blood and said he was high — for the first time in his life — on pharmaceuticals.
“I was taking so many meds, Jay, that it was ridiculous,” he said. “Because, you got to understand, I’ve never smoked, never drank in my life. So I’d never been high. But taking these meds, man, I see why people get addicted to that stuff, man.”
It is not uncommon for people who have abstained from alcohol or drugs in their lives to experience issues when given pharmaceutical drugs in a medical situation. Often athletes will refuse taking painkillers.
“I was on so many meds because the pain was so excruciating that the detox period for me — I was sweating bullets when I got out, in the bed — sweating, sweating, sweating because I was so used to the meds at night, especially late at night. And it was crazy. But the toughest part, mentally and emotionally, was someone having to help me into bed, help me out of bed, take me to the bathroom, get me out of the bathroom.”
Sanders was unable to coach a number of games for Jackson State during the 2021 season following surgery he underwent in September. The surgical procedure was to fix a dislocated toe, stemming to his NFL playing days more than a decade ago.
The road to recovery was clearly tough, and Sanders said he leaned on his faith in God throughout.
“I had ramps going up to the front door, rails they had to put in the bathroom so I could get on the darn toilet. I didn’t see no end to it at that time, although I always trusted God. It was just tough, man, emotionally,” he said.
Williams, the host of the podcast and a former NBA player, suffered a horrific motorcycle accident early in his career. He talked openly about his struggle with addiction during recovery and asked Sanders about taking meds to numb the pain.
“No, no,” Sanders said said. “When I was in the hospital, I was on a whole lot of meds. When I got out, you know, I had to wean myself off of them, and I did. But just sweating, man — I couldn’t understand, why am I sweating at night? But my body was yearning for the drugs. And I’m like, I can’t do that. I can’t do that. I can’t just pop these pills to make myself feel better.”
Sanders snagged the No. 1 player in the country, Travis Hunter, during recruiting season and JSU opens the football season on Sept. 4, with the Orange Blossom Classic against Florida A&M in Miami Gardens, Florida.
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