I have to credit Herb on this story[url=http://www.montrealgazette.com/sports/Cahoon+career+path+frightening+moments/2248226/story.html]http://www.montrealgazette.com/sports/C ... story.html[/url]
MONTREAL — Sixteen years have passed — enough time for the physical scars, barely visible to the naked eye, to virtually disappear.
Ben Cahoon has recovered, both emotionally and mentally, although he’ll never forget the pain he endured from the stab wound that went completely through his right hand when he was mugged and robbed in Philadelphia.
“Absolutely. Vividly,? the Montreal Alouettes’ veteran slotback said. “The pain was sharp . . . a deep ache . . . a painful ache I had never experienced before. More than the pain, I remember the pain at the hospital, while it was being cleaned with a saline solution. The pain and the pressure.?
It was a Monday evening in late July 1993 and Cahoon, recently turned 21, was nearing the completion of a two-year Mormon Church Mission through Delaware, southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia.
He had left his Utah home at 19, interrupting his football career at Ricks College following one season to fly across the country with all the worldly possessions he could cram into two suitcases and a carry-on. Cahoon’s mandate was to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ while teaching people about the Mormon religion and theology.
No television or radio is permitted. And forget about dating. His days began at 6:30 a.m. with study, not ending until 15 hours later. The only time he was permitted to communicate with his family via telephone was on Mother’s Day and Christmas. He shared an apartment with a male companion — lodging the church arranged but was the financial responsibility of the missionaries. There wasn’t even time permitted for training. Serving a mission isn’t mandatory, although Mormons are encouraged to participate.
“I wanted to serve a mission my whole life, and looked forward to it,? Cahoon said. “It was pretty intimidating leaving home, going into a foreign area and explaining the principles of my religion and theology. People know what they’re getting into.
“It was probably the best two years of my life,? he added. “You lose yourself in service to others . . . and focus on the spiritual aspect. It shaped me and my life.?
Transferred every four or five months, Cahoon’s last leg would encompass downtown Philadelphia — specifically the area known as German Town, a rough, dangerous and seedy area. He would hear, years later, eight undercover FBI agents had been assigned to a six-block radius in the area.
Unfortunately for Cahoon, none were around that evening, at 9:30, when he and his companion were waiting at a bus stop to return to their apartment. Cahoon was 48 hours from competing the mission and returning home.
Cahoon said he never felt threatened, believing the missionaries had developed a decent relationship with the residents.
But on this night, the two were taken by surprise, grabbed from behind by two men and ordered to relinquish their money. Cahoon felt a sharp instrument against his neck but remained calm.
The two were penniless, and even had their pockets checked. Cahoon offered his bus pass.
Instead, they confiscated his knapsack, which held his camera, scriptures and records book of his itinerary.
A car pulled up, scaring away the muggers. Cahoon and his companion elected to give chase — they had confidence and believed the car’s occupants would offer assistance — catching the thugs within a block and wrestling them to the ground. The bigger of the two got away, suggesting he was going to his car to retrieve a gun. Cahoon attempted to block him and was stabbed.
He’s still unsure whether it was with an ice-pick, screwdriver or knife, but knows the wound went completely through his hand.
“I feel like we were not too bright . . . not too smart to go after them,? Cahoon said. “We were extremely lucky and blessed nothing worse happened. I am convinced God was looking out over us.?
Cahoon used his torn shirt to apply pressure to the wound. They flagged down a car; the occupants reluctantly driving them two blocks to a 7-11 where a police car was stationed.
Cahoon was taken to a hospital, and two hours later, he was released. There wasn’t any ligament damage and, incredibly, no stitches were required. He returned home with his hand bandaged, his family unaware what had occurred. In mid-August he returned to the junior college for practice, catching balls two weeks after being stabbed. A year later he got into Brigham Young, launching his Division-I collegiate career, before turning pro with the Als in 1998.
Cahoon’s assailant never was caught. “I knew I was okay,? he said. “I didn’t think much about my career. When I was told I didn’t require surgery, I figured there would be a total recovery.
“On occasion, I still do look at it. I realize my career could have ended or we could have been killed. My hands are my money-makers. I feel fortunate the use of my hands wasn’t affected.?
Twelve seasons into a certain Hall of Fame career, Cahoon is preparing for his 14th playoff game, Sunday’s East Division final against B.C. At age 37, his five-foot-nine, 184-pound body has proven remarkably resilient over the years.
Physically, Cahoon could play another year. And, following his eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season, it’s not like he’s holding on. Although an option year remains on his contract, he’s undecided about his future, suggesting he’ll take a month or two this winter to contemplate things with his wife and family.