When New York Giants offensive lineman Nick Gates went down with a fractured leg in Week 2 of last season, he knew it was bad. But it wasn’t until later that he realized just how bad.

At the time, Gates was just focused on reassuring his teammates and family that he was fine.

“I’m good,” Gates told his family during a FaceTime call, as told by ESPN. “I broke my leg. It snapped in half. But I’ll be good.”

Gates’ mother, Sonya, was in frantic. His brother, Matt, was shedding tears for the first time that Gates could recall.

“That’s exactly what he was saying: ‘Mom, I’m fine. I’m fine. Stop crying,’” Sonya told ESPN. “He was telling his brother, ‘Matt, I’m good. I’m good.’”

Gates even poked fun at the ambulance driver on his way to the hospital, joking that they were hitting every bump.

But reality soon set in for Gates and the severity of his injury became clear. And even during his recovery, things were sketchy. At one point, his doctor told him that there was a possibility he might lose his leg.

“[Losing my leg] was in play,” Gates said. “But then I asked a question: ‘Should I be worried about it?’”

Much to his delight, the doctor later informed Gates that he was “good.” The fear subsided and the 26-year-old immediately returned his focus to getting back on the field.

“What does being negative about this do for me? … What, am I going to feel sorry? It’s broken,” Gates told ESPN. “I’m not going to be down in the dumps. No use for that.”

That attitude has positioned Gates well. Although he was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list at the start of training camp, there’s optimism that he’ll be able to return this season. Quite possible, as early as the preseason.

“When I got here, I was just worried about his quality of life,” general manager Joe Schoen said. “The fact that he is where he is and may be able to play in the preseason is amazing. Credit to the kid. He’s been working his butt off.”

“This guy has been rehabbing unbelievable,” head coach Brian Daboll said. “He’s made a lot of strides.”

If Gates returns at all, the story would be remarkable. If he returns during the preseason, it would be unheard of. Either way, Gates is an inspiration and one of the toughest men in football. And that’s precisely why his teammates love him and previously voted him a team captain.

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