Skip to main content

Arizona Cardinals Home: The official source of the latest Cardinals headlines, news, videos, photos, tickets, rosters and game day information

Antonio Hamilton 'Thankful' To Make It Back From Serious Burns To Feet

Cornerback wasn't sure he was going to play again for Cardinals

An emotional Antonio Hamilton before Sunday's game, his first game back since suffering serious burns on his feet during the preseason.
An emotional Antonio Hamilton before Sunday's game, his first game back since suffering serious burns on his feet during the preseason.

The song, suggested by a friend, is a constant on Antonio Hamilton Sr.'s playlist.

The cornerback listens to “A Million Little Miracles” and can't help but get reflective on the past six weeks, when a cooking accident burned his feet and threatened first his family, then his career, and his mental health.

There are few on the Cardinals more passionate than Hamilton, about his own ability, about his faith, about his wife and kids. That was apparent Monday, as Hamilton told his story for the first time after playing for the first time this season when the Cardinals hosted the Eagles.

"It was overwhelming," Hamilton said. "I was going through a lot of emotions. Soon as I stepped on the field it all just oozed out."

Hamilton paused for a moment, the emotions again rushing back.

"I (had been) in a very, very dark place," he said.

HAMILTON was in the midst of the best training camp of his career. He had supplanted Marco Wilson as the team's No. 2 cornerback, a starter along with Byron Murphy. The end of the preseason was approaching.

Hamilton was in the kitchen in late August, readying a brand-new pot to cook some shrimp, an exercise he had done "hundreds of times." Suddenly, a grease fire broke out, a freak accident out of nowhere. The smoke detector went off. Hamilton's two young daughters Aubrey and Olivia were crying. He scrambled to find a fire extinguisher, to no avail.

He instinctively tried to lift the pot away, frightened the fire could spread and his children or wife, Tiara, would be in danger. But as he did it, grease leapt to his face, and he dropped the pot. His shorts caught on fire – which distracted him from the fact his feet also were burned.

His kids had never seen him cry, but he worries they are traumatized from hearing his screams as it happened.

The one thing Hamilton insists he remembers among the chaos – a gust of wind, which helped tamper some flames. That was a sign from God, Hamilton said.

"In my mind, I had to go through this," he added.

Easier to say now, much more difficult to live through.

Hamilton's savior was Tiara, 7½ months pregnant with their first son. The burns were gruesome. He needed help to clean and bandage them every day, a process with a daily shower that took an hour. He couldn't walk and couldn't go to the bathroom without her help.

The meds didn't dull the intense pain when the are was touched, so Tiara endured Hamilton's wrath when he was hurting. Yet she was the one who insisted he clean the feet when he tried to avoid it because of the pain.

"She went through hell, because I did go through that dark space," Hamilton said. "It wasn't fun."

The burns were mostly deep second-degree, although he had a couple of spots of a more serious third-degree variety. He was worried he would never play again. As bad as the pain was, he never cried from the pain.

"It wasn't the pain part that got to me mentally, it was just me, being in that place that I was at and not knowing," Hamilton said.

The first week he was able to handle. But the second week was "total hell." He couldn't eat. His leg muscles deteriorated so much he was unrecognizable.

"You're named as starting cornerback to being on the field to having it all taken away in 30 seconds -- like literally 30 seconds," Hamilton said. "I didn't realize until I couldn't walk anymore and it all fell on me all at once."

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton played against the Eagles Sunday in his first game back since suffering severe burns on his feet.
Cornerback Antonio Hamilton played against the Eagles Sunday in his first game back since suffering severe burns on his feet.

FOOTBALL wasn't the end game. The fact Hamilton couldn't play with his kids was crushing in itself. But eventually, as the healing evolved, football came back into focus.

Most of the six weeks he was sidelined, he could only work out about 20 minutes a day, three times a week. He smiled when he said Sunday's game – in which he played 16 defensive snaps and 15 snaps on special teams – was his first real workout.

"You can check the tape," Hamilton said. "You wouldn't have necessarily thought, from my eyes, that I missed six weeks. But when I hit the sidelines after that first punt, I was dying.

"I made it through. It was a great test."

The feet are healed now. The skin is still new, so the nerves are still sensitive, but he has even graduated past the point of having to wear any special footwear to protect them. He came through the game unscathed.

He joked how he "might try to go into foot modeling" now that he has healed.

"He's fun to be around, and just to know his story, all the different teams he's been on, where he comes from," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "I really impressed with the type of player and person he is. To have him back around the team is good."

His faith was tested, and for a man so committed to it as Hamilton, it is a statement of gravitas. He wants to be able to use the adversity of the last six weeks to help others, whether it is a testimonial to his faith or something more tangible – he and Tiara have documented every step of his recovery with pictures and videos, with the hope it could help someone else going through a similar situation.

Hamilton is leading a pack of his fellow defensive backs on Tuesday to visit a local burn unit, interacting with children there.

A little thing like applying lotion to his feet, "that's a win to me," he said.

"Thinking about it, just having the gratitude to even put my feet on the ground," said Hamilton, who walked into Monday's interview barefoot. "There's a lot of people who don't get to put their feet on the ground. "

The top images taken by the Cardinals team photographer during the 2022 Week 5 regular season game against the Philadelphia Eagles, presented by Earnhardt Auto Centers.