J.D. Hinnant left his girlfriend's house on the afternoon of Nov. 2, on his way to a team dinner the night before a Friday game. The rest of that day, says the California offensive line commit, is a complete blur.
"I was the driver, and I was trying to make a left in a neighborhood and I got T-boned on my side. The car hit directly on my door, and I can't remember that day, at all," says Hinnant. "The first week in the hospital, I thought I was in the hospital because of a football accident ... I heard that he might have run a red light, but I'm not sure."
Football may be a collision sport, but the impacts in the trenches or even in the open field pale in comparison to two tons of steel plowing into you.
"Oh, yeah, by far. It's not a contest at all," says Hinnant. "I shattered my left hip, dislocated the pelvic bone that connects my two hips, so I had to have a metal plate put into my hips and three screws, and I broke my tailbone."
And he got yet another parting gift.
"I had two brain contusions," says Hinnant.
That was two months ago. Hinnant spent a week in the hospital, and then went to an in-patient rehab center to start the recovery process. Throughout it all, there was one constant: Cal.
"The coaching staff was still coach [Jeff] Tedford and coach [Jim] Michalczik, when I was in the hospital, but coach Tedford or coach Michalczik gave me a call every day," Hinnant says. "That makes a huge impact, especially with Tedford and Michalczik, when they would call my dad every day, it showed me that I could count on them for anything, no matter what happens. It showed that Cal would be a great place to play football."
Even after the coaching change, the Bears were still the biggest constant, other than the pain and the work of rehab for the 6-foot-5, 267-pound offensive lineman.
"The new coaching staff showed that, too. They've had my back, no matter what. It's just been great," says Hinnant. "They had awesome patience. Right away, coach [Tony] Franklin made it clear that he really wanted me, that they were willing to wait however long it took, and that they would stick with me the whole time. If I ever needed to give them a call, they were there. They've been awesome. I couldn't ask for much else."
And, on Friday, Hinnant and a bevy of other Cal commits and targets sat down in a suite at the Anaheim Hilton and got to chat even more with the coaches, and of course, hang out together. Hinnant bonded in particular with injured Semper Fidelis All-American Erik Bunte.
"I spent about two hours there. I talked a lot with the staff. Coach Franklin and all of them. I saw the recruits. It was pretty fun," says Hinnant. "They just had some couches, chairs, pizza and they had a Cal video on. It was really fun. Just the talking, though, was good."
With commits Jared Goff, Bunte, Matt Anderson, Victor Egu, Garrett Hughes and Khalfani Muhammad playing in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl and staying in that hotel, along with targets Austin Hooper, Aaron Cochran, John Ross, Devin Ross and L.J. Moore, the room was buzzing. Offensive line target Chris Borrayo was in attendance, as were Cameron Walker and Coleman Sheldon.
"It was pretty awesome," says Hinnant. "It was great getting to get to know these guys that I'm going to be on a team with for my time in college. It was great getting to know them, and it seems like a great bunch of guys that I'm going to be with."
After his sojourn out into the world on Friday, Hinnant returned to school for the first time as a normal, crutch-less student on Monday, roaming the halls of Fountain Valley (Calif.) High and getting back to work. He has an academic reputation to maintain, after all, with a 3.75 GPA and an 1860 SAT score.
"I'm definitely lucky, for sure," says Hinnant. "I'm able to go to school every day now. It's not a bad deal at all ... I'm taking three periods now, instead of five."
What classes is he taking?
"I already have all my credits. I'm just taking all my required classes, like Econ and Ceramics."
"I have to take an art class," Hinnant laughs.
As for his recovery, Hinnant still has a bit of work to do, but he's making progress.
"I have an appointment in four more weeks, and he said that by then, I should be 100 percent," he says, though what 100 percent is defined as is a bit fuzzy. Hinnant will likely still have to redshirt in 2013, but that will give him time to continue to strengthen himself both mentally and physically, as the scars heal. He is sure of one thing, though: Once he gets to Berkeley, he'll be ready to get to work.
"For sure," Hinnant says.