Louisville's Luke Hancock, top, was the first person to offer support for Kevin Ware after his teammate broke his leg against Duke./Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports
When Louisville forward Luke Hancock saw
Kevin Ware lying near the sideline with a shattered right leg, he
initially recoiled like his teammates. Some Cardinals were vomiting,
others were crying and inconsolable.
But then Hancock thought back
to last summer, when he suffered a gruesome shoulder injury in a pickup
game. He remembered how others were aghast. He remembered how former
Louisville guard Andre McGee was the only one to rush to his side, to
rush him to the hospital. He remembered how much that had meant.
as Ware lay there in the first half of the Cardinals' NCAA tournament
victory over Duke on Sunday, scared and alone and stunned, Hancock ran
to him. He held Ware's hand and told him they would get through this
together. He told Ware he would say a prayer for him.
respond at first, because he was in shock. Hancock took a deep breath,
closed his eyes, clenched Ware's hand and started the prayer.
"Lord, watch over us and let Kevin be OK during this tough time," he began. "The Lord does everything for a reason, and He will get us through this."
said he did all he could to keep from breaking down, to keep tears from
falling onto his fallen teammate. He found out later that Ware also was
trying not to cry, trying to stay strong for him.
gently patted Ware's chest several times, the two of them together in
front of 34,657 fans in Lucas Oil Stadium and millions of horrified TV
"I wouldn't want to be alone in that situation, and I
don't think he wanted to be alone," Hancock said, sitting in a small
office at the team's training facility Wednesday as Ware held a news
conference upstairs. "I just thought if I could talk to him and tell him
he'll be all right, it might help."
It helped more than
Hancock realized, more than he could imagine. Ware said that before
Hancock arrived, he was scared. After Hancock touched him and calmed
him, he knew he would be fine.
Before long the other Cardinals
were there and Ware was enveloped in a sea of support. His teammates
clenched his forearms and held him tight. But that first moment was the
most important moment.
"Seeing Luke there," Ware said, "really just touched my heart."
said Hancock's presence allowed him to refocus and regain his strength.
It allowed him to start thinking about the team - or, as he told me,
"to go into Kevin mode."
He began telling his teammates to win the
game, to win it for him. He said it over and over, until he was taken
away on a stretcher before heading to a hospital for surgery.
never know how you'll react to danger or disaster or trauma. You like to
think you'll be strong and courageous, but sometimes it's just not that
You can't fault the other players for their initial
reaction to such a macabre moment. But you can praise Hancock, and you
"I think it just galvanized everybody," Louisville
athletic director Tom Jurich said. "It was the very first thing I
noticed. To see Luke right there was just incredible."
afternoon, Hancock arrived at the team training facility wanting to know
when Ware would return home. Told that he already was in the locker
room, Hancock rushed in.
"You could see on my face and on his face
that we were just so happy to see each other," Hancock said. "He gave
me a hug and said he was so thankful I was there for him. I told him I
knew he'd do the same for me. That's my friend."