By Steve Corkran
Friday, April 26th, 2013 at 2:51 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Late last year, cornerback D.J. Hayden was losing weight and feeling down as he recovered from a rupture of a vein that feeds to his heart, the result of a freak accident in practice at the University of Houston.
Today, he addressed the Bay Area media as the newest member of the Raiders, their No. 12 pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.
“I didn’t even think that I’d be where I’m at right now,” Hayden said in Alameda at a news conference.
Hayden spoke with ease, confidence and humility, saying all the right things and adjusting to a life that has taken two drastic turns within the past six months.
Growing up, Hayden idolized cornerbacks Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis. He also displayed a firm grasp of the rich tradition of cornerbacks with the Raiders.
He called the Raiders “a DB factory” after rattling off the likes of Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes.
Hayden said he has been medically cleared to play football again, though he hasn’t been informed by the Raiders whether he will be permitted to participate in the team’s first mini camp.
On the bright side, Hayden has recovered from his injury, and his mind now is free to focus on football.
“The chances of it happening again are slim and none,” said Hayden, shortly after posing with general manager Reggie McKenzie while holding up a No. 25 jersey with his name on the back. “I’m not really worried about it.”
It’s a far cry from a few months ago, when Hayden said he became accustomed to regular IVs and needle pokes and wasn’t sure he would ever walk again, let alone play football.
The Raiders checked out Hayden thoroughly and liked him enough that they selected him at No. 12. McKenzie said the Raiders were prepared to select Hayden at No. 3 if they hadn’t have traded down with the Miami Dolphins.
“They still got the person they wanted and they got the extra pick,” Hayden said.
Of all the pre-draft visits Hayden had, the Raiders were the last, he said.
“I guess I saved the best for last,” Hayden said.