On April 29, 2015, the Nashville Venom of the Professional Indoor Football League, had a game. On their second drive of the game, they were in scoring distance and sent Zach Ducker out as a receiver. Head coach Billy Back called for a reserve pass by fellow wide receiver Jordan Jolly. The play didn’t work for a couple of reasons. One, it went incomplete and there was a player laying on the field motionless. It was Ducker.
“It was a clean hit and I hit the wall in the end zone awkwardly,” said Ducker. “I laid there and thought I was just injured at first but when I couldn’t move I got scared. I prayed and just allowed the paramedics to work on me. I knew it was bad but stayed positive.”
That night Ducker was pronounced to have a career ending injury to his neck. Once it was known, teammates and fans went to the hospital to give their condolences. Ducker enjoyed the support but wouldn’t allow what the doctor said to bring him down.
“People were coming to the room looking sad for me. I told people that this wasn’t over. People looked at me like I was crazy. Only a few people believed me and that’s all I needed. I am a firm believer in God’s promises. I stayed focus.”
The following week, the Venom team wore t-shirts showing support for Ducker. That summer, his good friend Romeo Gilbert wore his number 12 for the Nashville Storm. The support was great but it was time for Ducker to recuperate. Within weeks he went from being paralyzed to working out. Before the summer season of 2016. He made a call to Storm General Manager Scott Wallace asking him to put him on the roster. Then in September, he made another call to Wallace.
“He asked me if he was still on the roster because he thought he doctor was going to release him to play,” said Wallace. “I knew right then he would be able to suit up again. His faith in God and will to get back to play was a key. We talked when it first happened and I told him I believed in him. He played in the Gridiron Developmental Football League championship game. I was overjoyed when I got the news.”
Ducker then signed to play for the Middle Tennessee Bulldawgs on the Middle Tennessee Football League. In his first game, he caught two touchdown passes in his team’s 30-0 victory over the Nashville Elite. His buddy Gilbert also caught two touchdowns in the game.
His play led him to another call. Back, the head coach of the Wichita Falls Nighthawks, heard Ducker was playing again and kept a keen eye on what he was doing. Back invited him to come play for him and Ducker jumped to it. This past weekend, the Nighthawks defeated the Sioux Falls Storm 36-21 breaking their 68-game home winning streak.
“It was good to get back out there but this is just the beginning. I want to help this team win a championship. The talent is there. I am going to stay positive and see what happens.”