Kyle Williams' Arizona State University football teammates have a nickname for him: Doc. "Whenever they have recruits come in they say, 'You know this guy's going to be a surgeon?'" Kyle, a wide receiver for the Sun Devils, tells NCAA.com. "I'm like, 'Man, stop jinxing me.'"
A career in medicine may seem like a Hail Mary pass (or catch) for a collegiate wide receiver with his sights set on the NFL. But for Kyle, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, it's a serious backup plan that he began to develop after a shoulder injury his freshman year. While the injury "slowed him," it also turned out to be "a blessing in disguise," according to AZ Central. That's because it connected Kyle to Anikar Chhabra, M.D., the Sun Devils' team physician and an orthopedic surgeon at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus. And now Dr. Chhabra — a former college athlete himself (he played basketball at Harvard) — has become a mentor to Kyle.
"Most players just want to know when they're going to be back on the field playing again," Dr. Chhabra says. That wasn't the case with Kyle, who'd long had an interest in math and science. "Kyle wanted to know about the anatomy of the shoulder, what was involved in the healing process, what he could do so that it wouldn't happen again."
And Kyle's questions didn't end there. At the end of the season, he asked Dr. Chhabra for a play-by-play look at the life of a doctor. Dr. Chhabra agreed to show him, and Kyle was immediately hooked. After the first day "I went back and called my parents and my brother and said, 'I think I want to be a surgeon, Mom,'" he tells NCAA.com. "It's awesome what they do in helping people with their lives."
Kyle also appreciated that surgery, like football, is a team sport. "Not everybody can see that connection," Dr. Chhabra says. "He was able to see that right away. His first day in the operating room he said, 'This is your game day.'"
Over the past two years, Kyle has observed many more of those game days. He's also accompanied Dr. Chhabra on patient rounds and helped conduct research as a research intern. He even "wrote a chapter on a new arthroscopic procedure for a soon-to-be-published textbook," AZ Central reports. All while continuing his studies and making his mark on the football field. Kyle is "probably our best all-around receiver," wide receivers coach Charlie Fisher tells the publication. "On top of everything else he's just great to be around. He's always positive and encourages the other players. He's the model citizen and the epitome of what you want in a student-athlete."
Or, in a physician. "Everyone loves him — the patients, the staff," Dr. Chhabra says. "I have no doubt he will do great things in life when he is done with football."
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