The day before Denver Broncos coach John Foxs open-heart surgery, Carolina Panthers running backs coach Jim Skipper an assistant for all nine years of Foxs Carolina tenure stopped by Foxs hospital room.
Fox was blowing into a tube that measured his heart and lung capacity.
The doctor said as soon as I can blow this thing up to a certain (level), I can get out of here, Fox told Skipper. So Im practicing.
Skipper was skeptical.
Im saying to myself, Youre not going to coach this year. Youre going to be lucky to coach at all, Skipper said.
But with Foxs wife, Robin, serving as his nursemaid Foxs term he slowly returned to health.
Sunday, Foxs Broncos face Seattle in the Super Bowl, concluding a season in which a bye week trip to Charlotte turned into nearly a month of convalescing at his Quail Hollow home. He had surgery on Nov. 4 to correct bicuspid aortic valve disease, a congenital condition in which the valve has two flaps instead of three.
It was one of those things where it was going to have to get fixed at some point, he said at a Super Bowl news conference. If it hadnt happened an emergency type of way about nine weeks ago, Id be looking at having that next week.
In the days after the surgery, Robin managed Foxs medication and made sure he was rested.
It was just John and I for those weeks. I would not let anybody come in, Robin wrote last week in a piece for SI.com. We had signs on the doors saying not to bother him, because I really wanted him to get his rest so he could get back in the shortest amount of time his body could handle. I knew that if people kept coming and going, that was going to prolong it.
Foxs children visited during his recovery, but friends and neighbors tried not to disturb him.
Felix Sabates, a Charlotte businessman and part-owner of a NASCAR team who has been friends with Fox for years, told Fox about the property Fox bought and built on along Quail Hollows No. 14, the hole Fox was playing when he started having trouble breathing on Nov. 2.
After Foxs surgery, Sabates jokingly sent him a text asking him to join him for a drink and a cheeseburger.
He said thats what almost killed him, said Sabates, who pointed out Foxs condition was not lifestyle-related.
John has never met a stranger, Sabates added. Some people would come by in the backyard playing golf, and hed go talk to them. Hes a nice man.
Skipper sent Fox a text wishing him luck the night before the AFC Championship Game, and planned to do the same Saturday. He has friends on the Denver and Seattle coaching staffs but knows what he will do Sunday.
Im rooting for Foxy, Skipper said. I dont know whos going to win. But Im rooting for him.
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