GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- It started as the "worst headache ever."
And before Florida linebacker Neiron Ball knew the diagnosis, the pain had gotten so severe that he couldn't look down and was begging for medication.
Ball says it felt like somebody was "smushing my brain."
Doctors determined that blood vessels in his brain were tangled and ruptured, causing bleeding that had to be stopped by radiation surgery. Ball still remembers his prevailing thought as he waited in the hospital: "Forget football. I'm thinking about living."
Now, more than 20 months later, Ball is back on the field and playing a key role for the seventh-ranked Gators (8-1). He has nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception -- numbers that mean little compared to all he's been through.