Cardinals CB Antonio Hamilton finds purpose after burn accident, emotional recovery
TEMPE — Thirty seconds.
That’s the time it took for Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antonio Hamilton’s life to be forever altered in a freak accident that left him severely burned.
Preparing to cook some shrimp, something he’s done time and time again, Hamilton’s instincts took over after the brand-new pot he was using went up in flames.
With his wife, Tiara, and his two daughters in the house, the smoke detector going off and the fire intensifying, Hamilton took matters into his own hands, taking the pot outside and away from the house. As he was leaving, the fire burned his face, forcing Hamilton to drop the pot and its contents on his shorts and feet.
Just as it seemed like there was no controlling the situation at hand, the fire was no more, leaving Hamilton’s family unharmed but the cornerback burned and unknowing what lay ahead.
Instead of letting his injuries consume him, though, Hamilton leaned on his faith to overcome, understanding there was a bigger purpose to what happened.
“It’s kind of crazy … (grease fires) just don’t go out and you can’t throw water on it,” Hamilton said Monday after making his season debut against the Philadelphia Eagles. “But I do recall as I dropped the pot, I felt a gush of wind blow on me. It was nobody but God. In my mind, I had to go through this for something. I met some people and had conversations with people that I wouldn’t have had had I not burned my feet or sustained any of these injuries.”
“It was supposed to be just a beacon light just to continue to show people what it is to stand strong in your faith no matter what the situation looks like, because in a blink of an eye everything can be gone like that,” the cornerback added. “It’s up to you to choose how you handle it.”
That’s not to say there weren’t some dark times for Hamilton, a training camp standout who head coach Kliff Kingsbury named starter opposite Byron Murphy Jr.
With his accident happening just as the season was about to begin, it was a tough break for a player that was looking to cement himself in the defense. His faith was definitely put to the test.
Hamilton said he was presented with two choices: Crawl out of that dark place or succumb to it.
With the backing and encouragement of his wife, who is expecting her third child around the bye week, Hamilton achieved the former.
“There were times where I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t get out of the bed to pee,” Hamilton said. “She had to essentially lift me up out of the bed and get me to the bedroom just so I could use the bathroom.
“I had to be totally dependent on her. … She endured a lot and I just want to thank her and just tell her I love her and I’m extremely appreciative of her because I wouldn’t have made it throughout that situation without her.”
Despite all the care in the world, though, there were still boxes to check off when it came down to Hamilton returning to his job.
On top of letting the skin on his feet completely heal, the cornerback had to make up for lost time on the football field. He also couldn’t overdo his rehab to avoid setbacks.
That meant three days a week for about 20 minutes of work outside.
His patient approach was rewarded in form of his season debut on Sunday, with Hamilton registering a tackle with limited snaps (16 on defense and 15 on special teams).
And while the end result wasn’t what Hamilton or the team drew up in the 20-17 loss to the Eagles, getting back on the football field was a feeling Hamilton will never forget.
“It was overwhelming. Of course, I was going through a lot of emotions,” Hamilton said. “Was just trying to stay under control and trying not to get too high. But as soon as I stepped out onto that field it all just oozed out.
“Just going through my mind right now, I’m just thankful. I just have a lot of gratitude. … I’m just thankful to get back. It could have been worse. My family could have been hurt from that situation. … If that would have been my wife and kids, I don’t know what I would have done or how it would have impacted me.”
Even though Hamilton is back with his teammates, the cornerback hasn’t forgotten his journey back from that very dark place and the feeling of emptiness that came with it. He came out the other end in a better place than he was before he was burned. He hopes the same for others in the same position.
In a way to help others that are facing similar situations, the cornerback and his wife have decided to document everything from the initial burns to where he’s at today.
If Hamilton’s story can help someone in some way, it’s all worth it in his eyes.