Quarterback of New Orleans Saints Drew Brees (top left) presents high school quarterback Alex Ruiz with a prosthetic leg. (1
There's his son lying on the 40-yard line years ago with a broken ankle that almost dashed his chance to play college football. It was over, his son told him as his toes somehow touched his calf. But after surgery and years of rehab, the joint healed. He still plays college football today.
There's Alex Ruiz, the quarterback of Linfield Christian High School in Southern California, where Burns trains on the back of the line on October 6, 2017 on the 35 yard line. His knee bent 90 degrees, the wrong way. He could not feel his right foot.
"I'll never play again," Ruiz said to Burns, who tried to squeeze his body between Ruiz's leg and his eye line.
"No, no, no, do not say that," said Burns. "We do not know, we've seen worse."
Ruiz, a junior, kept the ball in a running game and was set up by defenders at the line of attack. He stuck his right foot in the ground as he tried to free himself from a device, and the weight on his back pierced the joint out of his frame, then tore an artery that circulated blood to his foot.
One month later, he had the limb amputated below the knee.
And now Ruiz is again his jovial self and a great man on campus in Linfield. He is part of the Lions coaching staff while undergoing further treatment. A local car dealer donated a brand new GMC Terrain he could learn to drive with his left foot.
A pair of Division III colleges offered him financial aid packages to join the team as a student trainer when he can not play or a quarterback suit when he learns to play with a prosthesis.
And about this prosthesis: The Challenged Athletes Foundation donated his prosthetic gland. Drew Brees, the quarterback Ruiz has modeled his game after years, presented him on June 11, the new leg.
His athletic prosthesis, Brees will pick up the tab for it, he said.
"God is all about it," Burns says now. " You can see that something is meant here, it's no coincidence, there's a bigger reason."
Alex Ruiz is back during his junior season at Linfield Christian High School in Temecula, California.
And yet, Burns, who played in Southern California and was part of Steve Spurrier's coaching staff with the Redskins, cries thinking of the enormity of the event, thinking of a 16-year-old who makes the decision to be his own member to sever the pursuit of a normal life.
Doctors told Ruiz that he would spend the rest of his life walking with the help of a boot and crutches if he held his limb. He would never be able to walk or do sports again. He probably would not regain his feeling beyond his knee.
The family doctor told him while playing "Call of Duty" on his Xbox in his hospital bed. He turned off the game, put on headphones, and bellowed.
"You said it was my decision," he recalls. "The doctors would not do it for me, my parents would not be able to do it for me, I had to decide for myself."
A week later, his friends visited the weekend and he told them he had decided. The leg would go.
"I decided," he announced. "That's how I wanted to make life."
"We sat and cried and held hands," he says now. "They made me realize, me without a leg, I'm still me."
"When we talked," Burns said, "and he told me about his decision, he had to pull me through honestly. I screamed like a baby and he just stopped me and he said," Coach, me I want you to stop. It is my decision. It's something I want to do. I want to be able to play and run with my children and do all that, and if I do not, I will not do it. And do not treat me differently.
And Burns does not try, but it's hard, he's been in the game long enough to see a lot of football injuries, and his own career ended in college with a neck injury.
He watched his son through the rehabilitation center
The couple spoke at a community head breakfast over the ordeal recently, and Ruiz went first, announcing unexpectedly that if any future reconstructive knee surgery went well, he would try his older season with the
"I had to go into the other room and collect myself," Burns said. I think it's the whole thing – there was a limb that was removed. That changes things, whether you agree or not. That changes things. He is 16 [now 17] years old. He will not be able to walk in the sand or shower the same way or cut his toenails.