Hakim Akbar was told he'd never play football again.
During his 2001 rookie season with the New England Patriots, the linebacker was driving home after another victory for the eventual Super Bowl champions.
Before he reached his destination that night, Akbar dozed off behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade and rolled it into a ditch off the freeway.
He was thrown 30 ft. through the sunroof.
"I ended up in the woods and I could see my truck way over a long way away," said Akbar, who's attending the Calgary Stampeders' training camp.
"I tried to stand up but my whole left side was messed up -- felt like it was crushed in.
"Some people started yelling at me and they ended up coming and finding me. I was really banged up.
"The first thing I remember them saying to me at the hospital was 'You will never play football again.' "
The fifth-round NFL draft pick ended up with a broken scapula, separated hip, fractured vertebrae, cracked ribs and internal organ trauma.
He slept the entire first eight days following the accident, relied on an IV for food for three weeks but was out of hospital after a little more than a month.
Meanwhile, the Patriots were on the road to the first of the three Super Bowl victories. Akbar was finally well enough to visit the sidelines for the big game in New Orleans as the Patriots downed the St. Louis Rams.
"The coaches came and gave me support, (head coach Bill) Belichick and all those guys," Akbar said.
"They came into the hospital and gave me a lot of love. But it was no fun at all. It was unexpected and one of those things you have to get through along the way."
The Patriots made Akbar part of the victory celebrations that season and presented him with a Super Bowl ring.
Shortly afterwards, he was released by the team and the University of Washington grad bounced around through the St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville organizations.
Now he's in Calgary and hoping to fill the void left by linebacker George White, who'll miss the first part of the 2006 season with an Achilles injury.
Akbar, 25, has picked up the Stamps defensive system and is a good bet to get a strong look during the pre-season contests against the B.C. Lions.
Although the car accident was almost five years ago, Akbar sometimes feels a bit of anxiety heading into a corner on the freeway.
He prefers to let others take the wheel while he buckles up tightly as a passenger, although he actually wasn't wearing his seat belt in his SUV the night of the accident.
"I might have been killed if I stayed in the truck," Akbar said.
"The whole left side of it was crushed.
"I feel blessed to still be here. I don't take it for granted anymore."