HUNTINGTON - It took all of two plays for Marshall safety Brandon Drayton to re-establish himself as a playmaker during Friday's contest at Boise State.
As the Broncos executed a swing pass out of the backfield, Drayton fired downfield and tackled running back Robert Mahone for a 2-yard gain in what was his first action of the 2019 season.
In the grand scheme of the contest, that tackle might not have meant all that much. However, to Drayton, it was everything.
Just one month ago, Drayton not only thought his football career was over, but also that his health might be in jeopardy after a health scare.
The scare opened Drayton's eyes to a lot of things - most of all, not taking any day for granted, whether on the field or off.
Last Friday night, all the emotions of a roller-coaster summer came out as Drayton finished tied for a team-best 13 tackles in the 14-7 loss to then-No. 24 Boise State.
"Just thinking about what I'd been through up to that point, I just had a lot of emotions going through me at the time," Drayton said. "I was ready to get out there and hit somebody for the first time, really. Honestly, I was blessed to be out there, too, because I wasn't expected to play this season. I didn't think I was (playing) until a few weeks before the game, so I was blessed to be out there and tried to take advantage of the opportunity."
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday isn't generally one to get caught up in individual performances - especially after a loss - but Holliday's emotion rang through when speaking of Drayton during his weekly news conference on Tuesday.
"Our entire family is just happy that he has the opportunity to be out there playing again because ... three weeks ago, it was thought that he'd never play football again and have struggles in life," Holliday said. "I'm proud of what he has done and couldn't be happier for anyone more than I am for Brandon Drayton right now, in more ways than one."
Prior to preseason camp, Drayton had trouble breathing, and blockages were found in his sinus cavity. At the time, the news seemed grim well beyond football.
As Marshall opened its first full week of pads, Drayton was traveling to Tampa, Florida, to see a specialist and find out what was hindering him from breathing normally.
What Drayton found out had him breathing a big sigh of relief.
"Basically, I had a thing called polyps," Drayton said. "It's like a fungal infection in your nose and it was preventing me from breathing out of my nose."
Despite the positive result, Drayton still needed time for treatment to take place to get him back right and get him on the football field again for the Herd.
Drayton started up individual drills and non-contact drills, then progressed into 7-on-7 drills, but had little full-contact preparation prior to Friday night.
"I only practiced two days before that week," Drayton said. "I know they had a lot of trust in me. Even when I thought I wasn't playing, I was still watching film, practice, keeping up with plays and the game plan, all that. I was always prepared."
Still, the junior from Largo, Florida, said there was nothing like getting back on the field with teammates - even at practice prior to last week's contest.
"Before I thought I was going to be able to play, everybody was like, 'Are you OK?' I didn't really have an answer," Drayton said. "I said, 'I don't really know. I'll find out soon.' When I was out there at practice, the whole vibe was different. It was, 'Oh, Drayton's back out here!' Everybody was excited to see me, you know what I mean? ... My first day back at practice, it was really intense. Everybody looked a little more locked in."
While Drayton and his teammates are locked in on football, the junior starting safety also said the experience helped him lock in on life beyond the game.
"At the time, I had to think about what's after football," Drayton said. "I never really thought about what I'd do after football. That really made me think, 'What if football got taken away from me right now? What am I going to do?' That really made me take more things seriously, like my school. ...
"It opened my eyes to a lot of things, though. It can be taken away at any moment. You've always got to have a backup plan. Everybody says you have to have a Plan B, but most kids don't really have a plan. They are set on, 'I want to go to the NFL.' It's not realistic for everybody, and I had to really see it."
In the present, though, Drayton does have football once again, and now his sights are set on leading the Marshall defense against Ohio.
Drayton's downhill presence from the safety position is going to be key for the Herd against a run-oriented offense for the Bobcats.
Now, Drayton said he's looking forward to playing each snap like it's his last because that's the potential reality he faced.
"You never know," Drayton said. "It can happen at any moment."
OHIO (1-1) at MARSHALL (1-1)
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14
Where: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, W.Va.
Radio: ESPN 94.1-FM and AM-930, WDGG 93.7-FM