By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It looked worse than it was, and for that West Virginia University linebacker Doug Rigg is thankful.
He’s also thankful for hundreds of friends, family, West Virginia fans and even Oklahoma fans who tweeted him after watching him take a scary blow to his head from his own teammate, Karl Joseph, while the two converged on a tackle.
The blow in last Saturday’s game at Oklahoma left him motionless on the ground as prayers began being said around America and the stadium with 87,000 people in it went silent as trainers and doctors gathered around Rigg to evaluate him, strap him to a back board and get him aboard an ambulance to a nearby hospital.
It wasn’t until, as he was being carted off, one of the restraints loosened for him so he could offer a wave to the crowd to let them know that the worst fear, the fear of paralysis, had been avoided.
“They loosened one strap and told me, ‘Give a wave to the crowd,’” Rigg said as he came out for a media session on Tuesday night, actually having been released from the hospital in time to make the team flight back to Morgantown that same night. “When I waved I think I heard a breath of relief from a lot of people once they realized I could move and wasn’t paralyzed.
“A lot of people back home told me if I hadn’t waved they would have been a lot more afraid.”
Actually, the fear of paralysis was removed early on.
“I knew I wasn’t paralyzed when I woke up. They were doing tests like ‘move your fingers’ or ‘move your toes,’ but people couldn’t see because they were all gathered around me. I knew I had movement,” Rigg said.
What had happened was that Joseph’s head-on smash into him as the Sooner runner slid under them had knocked him unconscious.
“When I got hit everything went black,” he reported. “I didn’t even feel like I went out. I just remember our trainer, Dave Kerns, trying to wake me up. People said I was out for like 30 seconds. I lost track of time.”
And when he awoke the emergency personnel were asking non-stop questions, trying to get a grasp on just what had happened, not that he had a whole lot of idea.
Joseph, you see, is one of college football’s hardest hitters and was really concerned in the aftermath of the game until learning Rigg would be all right.
“He was trying to make a play,” Rigg said. “There was nothing intentional about it. It was part of the game. Me and Karl have no problem. He was the first guy to say something to me. He knew we had no problem.
“I might even be on his highlight tape,” Rigg joked. “I see how he hurt the guy from Texas last year. The guy can hit.”
As it was, he had to settle for being on the West Virginia game tape, which was revealing to him.
“I thought, ‘Now I see why people were so scared.’ I didn’t know it looked that bad, plus the way they filmed it they made it look like the whole stadium was panicking. I see why everyone’s concern was so serious,” Rigg said.
Arriving late for the team plane home, he got a hero’s welcome, although he says “if there was an ovation, I have no idea.
“It was a crazy feeling because a lot of people didn’t expect me to be on the plane. A lot of people on the team texted me. I thought I’d be staying in Oklahoma hospital for the night,” he remembered.
“When I got on the plane, everyone turned and looked at me. Coach (Dana) Holgorsen was the first one I talked to. He asked how I was.”
Now Rigg has to get himself cleared to play.
“Before I come back, I have to do a concussion test. I think I took it my freshman year. You do it before you begin playing, and then they compare the results,” he said.
More than likely, even if he were to pass the test, with an overmatched Georgia State this week’s opponent, it might not be a bad idea to give him a week off. To err on the side of safety, if he isn’t needed, makes sense.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.