And what did Benson see? "Surprise, shock. Not fear. Surprise," says Benson.
Rhea came out of the training room and with the help of his assistants put Andrews on a motorized cart and drove him to the building. The team, meanwhile, had fallen silent and would, indeed, remain almost mute for the rest of the day.
Falcons coach Dan Henning watched the event as though through a dark lens. He had just returned from New York, where he had gone to see his ailing father, and he had not slept for 36 hours. "I went over and looked at William's face and I knew," he says.
Inside the training room Rhea cut off Andrews's pants and put ice on his knee. It was a futile gesture. "I knew a bag of ice wasn't going to help," says Rhea. "I've been doing injury tests all my life, and I didn't get past the first test with William, the one where you ask the person to raise his toes." Andrews couldn't. His lower leg was paralyzed. He had nerve damage.
In minutes Andrews was driven to Piedmont Hospital. The Falcons called Garrett, who was vacationing at Hilton Head Island, S.C. at the time. "I was out windsurfing," recalls Garrett, who immediately began packing to return to Atlanta. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning.
Andrews asked for a phone and called his wife. "I told her to wait till tomorrow to drive down," he says, smiling at the memory, "but that was like telling a tornado not to drop its funnel. It's a 4½-hour drive from Thomasville, and I'll bet she made it to the hospital in three."
When Garrett opened up Andrews's knee he found mayhem. "Every major ligament had been disrupted," he says. Some were ripped, some shredded. Cartilage was torn. Even more worrisome than the joint damage, however, was the damage to the peroneal nerve, the long, pencil-thick cord that runs through the knee and down to the toes. "It has the texture of a night crawler," says Garrett, "but inside it looks like a telephone cable."
The nerve enables one to lift the foot; if it is severed, the foot dangles uselessly—forever. If it is just stretched or bruised, the nerve sometimes can regenerate. As Garrett followed Andrews's nerve down its path, he found that it had been stretched—almost two inches—but it was still "in continuity." With luck Andrews would be able to walk normally again. Run the football again? That would take a miracle.
At home Andrews sat and thought. He couldn't feel his foot. His cast was immense. He couldn't walk. He spent his nights in the downstairs bedroom because he couldn't make it upstairs. If he needed something he called Lydia on their second phone line. "I was a cripple," he says.
The injustice was that now he never would be known. At Auburn he had blocked for James Brooks and Joe Cribbs and had seldom carried the ball. He had been drafted in the third round by the Falcons and got no fanfare then. His name—a TV announcer once called him William Miller on a network broadcast—and a running style that resulted in a career 4.6-yards-per-carry average but no run more than 33 yards seemed to preclude superstardom. "The problem was you never saw William on the Monday Night highlights going 80 yards," says Dayton.