Since March, college sports at every level have drastically changed due to the pandemic. After nine months, coronavirus cases recently hit over one million in Florida, affecting numerous student-athletes across the state, including at least one college athlete at Florida A&M University.
A day after Khalil Lynes told his college football coach he had a terrible headache, he received the shocking news from Curative that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“I tested positive for COVID on Nov. 7,” the senior philosophy student said. “Before that, I had the symptoms, but I just thought it was a cold because of flu season … I couldn’t breathe at practice, and then the next day — the seventh that was Saturday — I got tested, and it came back positive. Then after that, it just went downhill. It was hard to breathe, and I was coughing really bad.”
Lynes, a defensive lineman on FAMU’s football team, was having a typical, pandemic day in college life when he suddenly started to have a scratching throat. Later on that day, he began to notice more symptoms of the virus, causing him to worry about his health.
“I remember it being hot in the room, and I was shivering, and I had goosebumps and I couldn’t stop,” Lynes said. “I had about four covers on me, and I still couldn’t stop shivering, so that’s when I started to notice something was up. When the weather cooled down, it was cold and I was sweating. Then the next day, I woke up with a bad headache and bloodshot eyes. So those were red flags for me.”
Lynes is still unsure how he contracted the virus, and it is a serious concern to many college athletes catching COVID due to case studies stating a possibility of having a well-known complication, an inflammation of the heart called myocarditis, after recovering from the virus.
Although the Miami native hasn’t experienced any signs of myocarditis, Lynes’ family members are wary about him having any detrimental side-effects from the virus that could have a long-lasting impact on his health.
His cousin Ja’Nai Ferguson, a sophomore architecture student who also attends FAMU, shared her worries about Lynes testing positive and uncertain about how he received the virus because he often stays to himself.
“When I found out Khalil had COVID, I was just confused and surprised because I know he doesn’t hang out like that,” Ferguson said. “I told him to take it easy and rest up. I also told him to stay safe.”
Weeks after recovering from the virus, the college athlete is ready to get back to doing what he loved ever since he was 6 years old — football.
“I’ve been playing football since I was 6 years old, and it’s like I don’t know I was just always naturally good at it [football]. People told me I had talent, and everybody was saying I’m just built for it,” Lynes said. “What made me realize I love football probably was, I think when I won the super bowl in Optimus. I started crying. I was like ‘this is what it’s like to win,’ and I just loved football ever since.”
However, since the cancellation of spring sports, including football, at FAMU and other Florida colleges, it’s been challenging for Lynes to continue playing football due to the radical change in the culture. Going into his final year at FAMU, Lynes worries he won’t be able to play for his alma mater one last time.
Eddie Tillman III, a running back and pre-physical therapy student at FAMU, also feels Lynes deserves a better way to end his career at FAMU because of his hard work and dedication.
“Khalil is a great teammate, hard worker,” Tillman said. “He is a good leader; he would give his all to be the best at whatever is in front of him. All I can say is it is extremely unfortunate, and I pray God continues to watch over him and give him the strength to see it through.”
This year’s college football season has become immensely different from any other in history, yet Lynes still wants football to be at the forefront of his career and won’t let COVID stop him from pursuing his dreams.
Although it is not promised if Lynes can play live in a stadium in front of screaming fans anytime soon, Lynes continues to practice and hopes he can return to his first love in football in the near future.