From "Out of Bounds"
This month's edition of Out of Bounds features the story of Don Hogan '65, a football player whose serious injuries in an auto accident prevented him from playing football again for the Irish.
Early on Christmas morning in 1962, Don Hogan, a Notre Dame sophomore and leading rusher for the 1962 football team, was involved in an auto accident on Chicago's Dan Ryan Expressway. He was injured badly. Several bones were broken and one of his hips had been cracked like a pecan shell. Never mind football, Don Hogan was going to have a tough time walking again.
But more than anything else, Hogan wanted to take the field again for Notre Dame. Miraculously, he was out for practice in the fall of 1963. But the jackhammer power, the deceptive speed, had not returned to his legs, and his comeback fell short.
Still, he followed a torturous rehabilitation program, hoping to make it back in 1964. Then in the Spring there came the agonizing realization that he was finished as a player. Don Hogan sat down and composed the following letter to his teammates:
March 16, 1964
Notre Dame Football Team:
I always felt that it was a hard job for a sportswriter to write a postmortem on an athlete who had just retired after a long sports career. But I never knew how hard it would be to write one's own.
The last thing in my mind when I registered at Notre Dame almost three years ago was that today -March 16, 1964 -I, Don Hogan, would be writing an obituary of my sports career.
It has been a long year and a half since that accident. The pressure at times has been almost unbearable. Last fall l almost made it, but then my progress halted. Over this past semester break my doctors told me I should forget about all active sports for the rest of my life. I found that ultimatum hard to take. I pleaded my case untill was given a set of exercises to try for thirty days; if they didn't do much good, all hope would be lost.
Well thirty days are up, and then some, and my condition has worsened if anything. What is my condition? The doctors tell me I have arthritis - my hip is like that of a sixty-year-old man. The reason I'm writing this letter, though, is not to tell you my condition, but to tell you why I fought so desperately to overcome it. If only each one of you could be deprived of playing ball for one year, knowing you could help the team but powerless to do anything about it.
Why did I keep trying? First of all, I wanted to play for Notre Dame; and I wanted to play with you, my fellow teammates, to be a part of you.
Being a part of Notre Dame has been the greatest and most rewarding experience of my short lifetime. When I was in the hospital l received get-well cards from people I didn't even know, from all over the country. Little kids look up to me because I'm a Notre Dame football player. I was fortunate enough to be Notre Dame's leading ground gainer, to win your respect; I'll never forget that night at the pep rally last fall when you gave me a standing ovation. But my most prized possession is that Southern California game ball you gave me. All of these things, plus thousands of people pulling for me, made me postpone my decision until all possibilities of recovery were exhausted.
I owe it to you and to my coaches to admit that my football career has ended. But I learned a great deal during my abbreviated career. I hope that all of you will learn and practice the same lesson - that is, never to give up until the game is over. By "the game" I don't mean just games on Saturday, but anything you do, whether it be a pre-spring workout or a long practice session, or anything in life for that matter -give it your all.
Being a Notre Dame football player automatically puts you in the national spotlight, more than playing for any other school. The fans will be pulling for you just as hard as they pulled for me -don't let them down. Be honest with yourself.
Well, I'd better be closing now, but I just had to tell you why I made my decision, what Notre Dame football meant to me, and what I hope it means to you. I hope that you and everyone else who has shown an interest in me will not think the less of me for making this decision.
One last thing: I'll be out there this spring and fall watching practice and your games; and if ever practice seems too long or you get tired along about that fourth quarter, just stop and think for one second that a guy named Hogan would give anything to trade places with you, and if he could he would never quit -then after you think it over give that second and third effort. Bring Notre Dame football back where it belongs. Someone in the stands will get the message of that extra effort, and that someone will be mighty pleased and proud.
Best of luck,
Class of 1965