Raiders are lucky to have Neiron Ball — and he’s lucky to be alive
It started with minor headaches for Neiron Ball at the University of Florida.
Then, the linebacker felt sharp neck pain — and went to the doctor when he couldn't keep his balance.
“At one point, I remember thinking that I didn’t want to die,” Ball told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I was very scared.”
He had every right to be. Ball, now a standout Raiders rookie, was diagnosed with a rare medical condition known as arteriovenous malformation (AVM), where the brain’s blood vessels knot and snap. It could've killed him.
But Ball stayed focused after life-saving radiation surgery. He sat out a season in Gainesville, focused on academics, and waited for his side-effects — like extreme light sensitivity — to subside.
When they did in 2012, team doctors cleared the defender. He said he'd never forget that feeling.
“One of the greatest days of my life,” said Ball, who was grabbed by the Raiders in the fifth round this year. “To go from the emergency room wondering if you are going to live, to working hard to try to get football back, to being cleared. It’s something I think back on often.”