The Raiders selected Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden Thursday night with their first choice in the NFL draft, No. 12 overall.
Hayden nearly lost his life in a freak injury during practice last Nov. 6. Kneed in the chest, Hayden, sustained a tear of his inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.
“I’m looking around and I’m getting real sleepy,’’ Hayden told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. “My left eye goes pitch black. I can’t see out of it . . . I’m praying, `Lord, help me get out of this one.’ ‘’
“The doctor said he was going to have to cut me open. I said, ‘Okay, just don’t mess my abs up.’ . . . they saw the vein was torn. They stitched it back together and here I am today.’’
Surgeons at the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Center saved Hayden’s life. The injury is said to have a 95 percent fatality rate.
Hayden didn’t work out at the scouting combine, but was able to work out for scouts, get cleared medically and clock a 4.33 time in the 40-yard dash.
Before the injury, Hayden was considered the top cornerback in the country. His performance in offseason workouts caused his stock to steadily grow, and CBSSports.com reported the Raiders were even considering Hayden at No. 3.
Hayden was the Conference USA Defensive Newcomer of the Year in 2011. He had six interceptions in 23 games for Houston, returning two for touchdowns.
One of the weakest units on the Raiders last season, the Raiders now have Hayden and free agent acquisitions Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins at cornerback.