Complete strangers cried after watching Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware fall to the floor with a horrific compound fracture to his leg Sunday during the Cardinals’ NCAA tournament victory over Duke.

TV viewers all over the world recoiled in horror.

Imagine being Ware’s father.

Kevin Ware Sr., who played basketball at Stratford High School in 1986, watched helplessly as CBS showed slow-motion replays of the injury.

“I was talking on the phone and was sort of distracted,” said Ware Sr., who watched the game at his home in New York city. “I knew there was a collision and then I heard (CBS analyst) Clark Kellogg say that Kevin Ware was down. Then I saw the replay. I felt like I was having a heart attack. That was the most pain I ever felt. You’re a father and you can’t do anything. You are never prepared for something like that.”

Ware jumped while attempting to block a shot and landed awkwardly on his right leg. He suffered a compound fracture to his lower leg as the bone protruded through his skin.

Ware was up and walking on crutches Monday after successful surgery in Indianapolis.

“He told me not to worry,” Ware Sr. said. “He said he wanted to be back out there this weekend (for the Final Four in Atlanta). He might not be able to play, but he wants to help in some way. He told me not to worry about him. What he was worried about was winning the national championship.”

Ware said he told his son to stay positive.

“Yes, he did get hurt,” Ware Sr. said. “But he got hurt doing something he loved. I told him he was still fortunate and blessed. How many kids get to do something they love and get a scholarship to do it? His college education is paid for.”

The elder Ware was born in the Bronx, but moved to the Lowcountry his junior year in high school and lived with his aunt and uncle, Sandra and Curtis Capers. He was coached by Randy Tucker and still keeps in touch with his teammates.

“We took a lot of teams by surprise back then,” Ware Sr. said. “We didn’t win the state championship or anything like that. But we beat Berkeley, a team that was No. 8 in the state at the time.”

Ware expects his son, a sophomore, to make a full recovery and play again.

“He’s loved basketball since he was a little kid,” Ware Sr. said. “He will be back because he has that passion. If he had it his way, he’d be out there Saturday.”

The younger Ware was back on campus in Louisville on Tuesday afternoon. Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he would like Ware to travel with the team to the Final Four, but an athletic department spokesman said Ware’s doctors had not cleared him to travel as of Tuesday night.

Social media has exploded with discussion of Ware’s injury, resulting in words of support from around the country. Former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann, who also suffered a horrific leg injury on Monday Night Football in 1985 that ended his career, and Miami Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were among those tweeting encouraging words.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.