Hearst was lucky to keep his leg, never mind playing again in the NFL. The running back infamously broke it in a game against the Falcons. He fell awkwardly and caught his foot on the ground. But the worst part was the necrosis that caused the bone to degenerate. In short, his leg was dying (via Sports Illustrated).
It took Hearst 34 months of treatment and rehab before he returned for the 49ers. He wasn’t there to make up the numbers because he put up great numbers. It’s not a shock that he won the Comeback Player of the Year award after he stormed back from injury. His heart and indomitable spirit deserve a lot of credit because it was so inspiring.