Utley won’t blame the game. He relished the violence, so he lives with the consequences. To blame football is to deny Utley control of his own life, and every success he’s had — from the moment he first stepped on the Silverdome field to the moment he uses his arms to vault himself into a Ford truck each morning — is a direct result of Utley’s belief that he controls his destiny. There is room to debate the morality of football, and there’s a time to consider our role in promoting barbarism as a form of entertainment. But maybe I was wrong. Maybe the thumbs-up isn’t about us at all. “That moment,” Utley said, “that was me making a promise to myself and to everyone else. That’s me saying I will not quit. I will not give up. I will be back.”
I was 11 years old, sitting in the upper deck of the Silverdome when Mike Utley was hurt. It was a chilling event to witness. Twenty years later I’m glad to come across a story about Utley, his attitude, and his drive to got back on his feet.