Sam Wyche is the former head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He led the 1989 Bengals to the AFC Title and a trip to Super Bowl XXIII. Wyche and his squad were just minutes away from winning the NFL Championship, until Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and the 49ers mounted a late fourth quarter drive that culminated in a 20-16 win for San Francisco and cemented Montana as an all-time great quarterback.
In the game of football, Wyche saw himself minutes away from being a Super Bowl Champion. In the game of life, Wyche saw himself minutes away from death.
In early September 2016, Wyche started to have heart issues and dizziness and went to the hospital to have some tests done. “They came in and told me I have two to five days to live,” Wyche told the Rich Take on Sports Podcast. “They came in and told me that my heart was in worse shape than I thought. They said 2-5 days unless they could get a heart. If one became available, they would perform a transplant.”
Wyche told Richmond Weaver on the Rich Take on Sports Podcast that he was keeping tabs of the days that week on his calendar. “No heart on Monday,” said Wyche. “No heart on Tuesday and Wednesday and eventually, Friday is the 5th day and still no heart.”
Wyche asked doctors to extend the wait until the weekend and give it a chance. Saturday no heart. Sunday no heart. On Monday, September 12, 2016, the doctor came in and told Wyche that he still had no heart and that he had hours, possibly minutes to live.
“The doctor came in and told me that they have already made arrangements with hospice,” said Wyche. “He told me to call my friends and family because I wasn’t going to live through the night. This was my last day.”
As all of this was happening, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wyche’s son had just finished a high school football practice. Across town, Wyche’s grandson Sammy, was the quarterback of another local team and had also just finished practice.
Around that same time, 5pm or so, both Wyche’s son and grandson called their respective teams together at the end of their practices in a huddle to pray for their Dad and Grandfather. Praying for Wyche to somehow, someway, survive.
Back in Charlotte, almost 500 miles away from Cincinnati, that same doctor who had broken the grave news to Sam just hours earlier walked back into Sam Wyche’s hospital room again around 5pm. This time, he had a smile on his face.
“The doctor came in and told me it was a miracle. This is like a one in a million chance. The doctor found a heart with a person my size and told me once it arrived, that within hours, we were going to get surgery done.”
By 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 13,2016, Wyche was in surgery.
“The power of prayer works,” said Wyche. “I had people praying all over the country. Hundreds of thousands of hits on my facebook, praying for me. The whole thing is a miracle.”
A few days following surgery, Wyche said he felt great. “I was so lucky to have found a strong heart, one that fit me perfectly.”
Three weeks after the surgery, he was riding 15 miles on a bicycle back in South Carolina.
Now 8 months later, Wyche says he feels great and is truly blessed and thankful to be alive. “I tell my coaches, the players, the friends, my family, the thank you’s don’t go unnoticed and the I love you’s pay amazing dividends.”
Former NFL coach Sam Wyche, the recipient of a donated heart, wants to increase the level of organ donations and urges everyone to consider donating.
“It doesn’t cost a dime, and you can save someone’s life,” Wyche says.
You can listen to the entire Sam Wyche interview on the Rich Take on Sports Podcast here.