FanPost

10 months after being shot, Curtis Brinkley gets his second chance

I was born and raised in San Diego so naturally I'm a Chargers fan but I've also been an SU fan for just as long. My pops and his family are from Syracuse, thus, I grew up worshipping Orange and Blue. So, it's always a nice little bonus when a player has the chance to play for both of my favorite teams like Steve Gregory has already done and hopefully Curtis Brinkley will do. There was a local story written on him that I thought all of Orange Nation would appreciate so here it is courtesy of the North County Times of San Diego. The actual web address is http://www.nctimes.com/sports/football/professional/nfl/chargers/article_fbf29ac3-4f33-53b9-a81a-f4e2e4eabada.html

SAN DIEGO -- Curtis Brinkley had to pass a physical before participating in the Chargers' rookies-only minicamp, but his was more involved than most.

The running back underwent a CAT scan on Thursday afternoon and had it analyzed by a doctor who took one look at the image and said, "My God. You are blessed." Brinkley doesn't need to be reminded. The scan shows a .357-caliber bullet resting an inch from his heart, an artifact that nearly took his life and his livelihood.

There are scars to remind him of the night he was shot three times in a case of mistaken identity, but nothing hits closer to home than the bullet deemed too dangerous to remove.

That and the nightmares are all that remain from a shooting in Philadelphia that left Brinkley clinging to life. On Friday, he finished his first official practice back with the Chargers, over a year after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse.

"I've been working towards this day for a long time," Brinkley said. "I have an opportunity to live out my dream of playing professional football and I'm trying to take advantage of it. One thing I know now is that nothing is promised and nothing should be assumed. Your chance could be here one minute and gone the next. … I'm ready. I'm determined. I want to make this team. Right now, I feel like nothing can stop me."

That's confidence gained by cheating death, something he didn't expect to do on July 10, 2009, just a few weeks before he was to report for his first professional training camp. Brinkley went to pick up his sister, Niveka Cason, from work, and arrived early. While he waited outside the adult-care facility where she worked, an assailant came up to Brinkley's car and fired a .357 Magnum three times, hitting Brinkley twice in the shoulder -- one bullet went clean through; the other remains with him -- and once in the side.

Brinkley ducked and slammed his car in reverse to escape the assault, peeled out and headed for the nearest gas station.

"I was slipping in and out of consciousness," Brinkley said. "The next thing, I knew I woke up in the hospital."

As he came to and his condition stabilized, one thing came to mind. He immediately thought of the sport he loved and whether he would ever play it again.

"The first question I asked was if I got released by the Chargers," Brinkley said. "I wanted to know if my dream of playing in the NFL was still alive."

Brinkley had little hope to believe it would be. Despite a tremendous run with the Orange, he wasn't a first-round draft pick. He was an undrafted free agent, with no guaranteed contracts or clout to hold his position.

Thinking logically, he saw little reason why the Chargers would keep him around. All he could do was hope and pray for a phone call from San Diego.

He got one.

"We made him a promise," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "We said that if everything worked out medically, we'd give him an opportunity. He thought he'd lost his chance, but we weren't going to let that happen."

Brinkley wasn't a bad seed. He wasn't hanging with the wrong crowd. According to reports citing Cheltenham Township police, Brinkley was mistaken for another man by Cason's boyfriend, Anthony Peterson, who resorted to violence against the wrong person and later turned himself in.

"I wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time," Brinkley said. "I feel I was in the right place at the right time. If anybody's sister or relative calls to come pick them up you do it, no questions asked. It's something that just happened. I don't waste time asking myself why."

That doesn't mean it was easy to forget.

"I would dream about what happened," Brinkley said. "I kept playing what I remembered over and over in my mind, but it was something I had to deal with. But I fought through it and kept clearing hurdles because I had motivation. I had football and now I have a newborn son to take care of.

"I mean, I got shot three times with a .357 and survived. I'm still here for a reason."

Brinkley never lost sight of that. He pushed himself after being cleared to resume physical activity in late December and early January, working out two and three times per day to get back in football shape.

Elijah Brinkley was born Feb. 4 and Curtis Brinkley arrived in San Diego in late March to begin the Chargers' offseason strength and conditioning program.

Motivation to live his dream, get his life back, and provide for his son was never in doubt. Playing football again has largely allowed Brinkley to put the incident behind him. He's focused on making the 53-man roster, which a standout camp could secure considering the Chargers don't have a No. 3 running back.

"A whole year has gone by, but he has the same opportunity he had before the incident," Smith said. "He's been very appreciative and his worked himself into excellent shape. Now he has to go out there and compete."

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