DARRYL STINGLEYwas lying in a Chicago hospital one afternoon in 1978 when a doctor led a groupof people into his room. A few weeks earlier, during an exhibition game againstthe Raiders, the Patriots receiver, a rising star, had been paralyzed by ahelmet-first hit from safety Jack Tatum that broke two vertebrae and crushedStingley's spine. After being told that the doctor wanted to introduce thefacility's "star patient," Stingley, then 26, exploded. "Starpatient my ass," he shouted. "Get out of here right now. I'm not onexhibit for anyone."
Stingley, whonever walked again, died last week at age 55. He told that story in 1983, in afirst-person account of his ordeal in SI, as an example of the bitterness hefelt. "I have relived that moment over and over again," he said in '88."It was only after I stopped asking why that I was able to regroup and goon with my life."
Stingley regainedlimited movement in his right arm—he was able to operate his electricwheelchair without assistance. He worked as a consultant for the Patriots, andin 1993 he started the nonprofit Darryl Stingley Youth Foundation to mentorinner-city youths on Chicago's West Side, where he grew up. He and Tatum neverspoke after that fateful play, but in 2003, when Tatum had part of his legamputated due to diabetes, Stingley was conciliatory. "You can't, as ahuman being, feel happy about something like that happening," he told TheBoston Globe. "Maybe the natural reaction is to think he got what wascoming to him.... [But] human nature teaches us to hate. God teaches us tolove."
THOMAS J. CROKE/NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS/AP (STINGLEY)
TRAGIC FIGURE Stingley led the Pats with five TD catches in '77.
THOMAS J. CROKE/WIREIMAGE.COM (STINGLEY IN CHAIR)