AJ McCarron’s Injury Came From a Near-Fatal Jet Ski Accident 22 Years Ago

AJ McCarron injury

Getty The scar on AJ McCarron's head came from a near-fatal jet ski accident when McCarron was 5.

Verizon’s latest commercial for the Super Bowl features former Oakland Raiders quarterback AJ McCarron. In the spot, which highlights the importance of first responders, McCarron discusses the incident that almost cost him his life.

What happened? What accident left him with a black eye and a line of staples up his scalp, and had doctors telling his parents he would likely not survive?

McCarron was just five when he was involved in a near-fatal jet ski accident. He and his family were at a place called Dog River in Alabama, testing out the jet ski McCarron’s father had just purchased. It was August 4, 1996, and Tony McCarron had AJ in his lap, and his cousin in the passenger seat.

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“We were going pretty fast,” McCarron explains. “The only thing I remember is waving at my grandfather and us hitting the buoy, losing control. I was just so light that I skimmed off the water at an angle.”

According to Cincinnati.com, the jet ski was traveling somewhere between 50 and 55 mph when they caught the wake of a patrol boat. They then turned the jet ski to go back towards the launch when a section of the vehicle caught on debris in the water. In an attempt to balance himself, AJ grabbed the handlebars, where the speed control was located. He accidentally turned the throttle and the jet ski picked up speed quickly. Tony McCarron lost control of the water vehicle, made sure to fling AJ’s cousin off the boat, and tossed his son to the side, hoping to keep both clear of the pier that they were headed towards.

“By the time I realized what he had done it had already shot us 15-20 feet before I could get his hand off of it,” Tony McCarron is reported as saying.

AJ says after that, he hit the water, skimmed across it, and “hit the pier with the left side of his face.” He says his left eye “was hanging by a tendon.”

Within minutes, he was at the hospital.

Doctors didn’t initially think AJ would recover, according to AL.com. They even gave McCarron’s mother, Dee Dee Bonner, a grief counseling card. “In my mind,” Bonner tells Verizon, “I was thinking, ‘I’m gonna have to bury my child.'”

The prognosis, reports Cincinnati.com, was life in a vegetative state. However, over time, that prognosis kept improving. By 1997, AJ was playing baseball again.

Tonight’s Verizon spot features 11 NFL players and one coach whose lives were saved by first responders. In the 60-second ad, NFL’s Carson Tinker, who was severely injured in a tornado in Alabama, says, “Thank you is nowhere near enough” when it comes to the first responders who saved him.

According to Fortune, Verizon intends on contributing up to $1.5 million to First Responders Outreach, a nonprofit that provides grants for emergency relief, training, and equipment. That money will come directly from consumers posting to Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #AllOurThanks between January 18 and February 3.

McCarron and his family thank the first responders for saving his life that day. “He’s able to play this game that he loves thanks to the first responders that helped him.”