Late in the third quarter after Grambling State reeled off 31 unanswered points to distance itself from ranked Alabama A&M, linebacker Danquarian Fields — standing on the sideline — got a tap on the shoulder.
It was position coach Terrence Graves notifying the graduate student to prepare himself to play.
Graves’ message to Fields was simple.
He “needed to get some of that action.”
But Fields, who has missed parts of two seasons after suffering a gruesome leg injury and hadn’t participated in the team’s first four games of the season, wasn’t quite ready.
“In the moment I was like, ‘I hadn’t played in three or four games,'” said Fields.” I was just happy with us winning. I really didn’t want to go in at the time.”
But Fields strapped on his black and gold helmet and stepped onto the turf at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium with a parting prediction for a teammate.
“This is going to be (the time) I make a play,” he recalled.
Just five plays into the first series of the season, he received instruction from defensive coaches to blitz Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass on third down.
However, he didn’t. Instincts and observation took over, and Fields dropped into coverage to intercept Glass’ pass and raced 16 yards the other way before he was taken down.
It was at this moment that Fields — a player who endured so much loss of time and people in recent years — could relish accomplishing a feat not seemingly possible while his right leg hung mangled from the violence of football two Septembers ago.
“It was very, very emotional for me,” said Fields of the interception and what it meant. “Due to all the deaths in the few past months. I had lost my grandmother that Thursday.
“For me to be able to get in the game and do that at that moment can be no better time. I just want to thank God. Without him, none of this would be possible.”
Fields’ story is inspirational in that he was able to battle back from seven knee surgeries and months of rehab to play football again after doctors initially told him that he was “15 to 45 minutes away” from having his leg amputated mere minutes following the injury he suffered on Sept. 7, 2019, in a game versus Louisiana Tech.
It’s also a tale that is not without an element of tragedy, either. Fields has lost close family members and watched others battle the horrors of COVID-19 most recently.
His journey back to some semblance of normalcy — at least as it relates to football — is something that has been endearing to head coach Broderick Fobbs, who called the senior “the most resilient player” he ever coached because of that backstory.
“I pull for Dan so much,” said Fobbs. “It’s truly amazing … he definitely is the leader of our team. For him to really come in and make a play brings joy to my heart.
“You come across people who don’t do the right things or do various things that are really not professional and then they come out ahead from time to time. But to see him, a guy that’s doing things the right way, not only in front of everyone but behind the scenes, that means a lot that he’s experienced some success.”
Fields, who hails from Arcadia, Louisiana, and is part of a close-knit family, explained that all of his experiences, including currently functioning within the framework of the pandemic, reinforced his commitment to who and what he truly cherishes.
He’s rededicated himself to his faith, reading more scripture now and valuing familial relationships.
All of it — the self-determination, encouragement from family, teammates, and a brigade of well-wishers — kept Fields going through all the physical therapy he still does twice per week and even the momentary self-doubt that he wouldn’t play football again when the rehab sessions grew tougher.
“It crossed my mind. It definitely crossed my mind,” said Fields about the prospect of never playing football. “I was at a blocking point that could never get through. I was telling myself, ‘Why am I doing this, and I’m still stuck in the same spot?’
“But there was a drive in me that kept telling me to just keep going and see how far you can go with it. I guess that’s what I did and never quit.”
And when Fields was finally cleared for football activity, it was time for reflection on just how far he’d come. Picking up his helmet and shoulder pads to actually put them on since having them removed to save his leg brought gratitude.
“It was just a blessing,” he said. “At that moment, I was just happy to be part of the team and really be able to walk.
“… But you know, I’m humble and just grateful.”