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Ooooh that smell...or sound (Post #2)

We’ve all heard people talk about a smell, sight or sound that can trigger a memory. Hopefully most of those memories come from a deep, joyful time in our childhood; like how the stinging scent of chlorine reminds me of summer days in the pool. Or how seeing the colors of autumn can spark memories of jumping in and out of the massive piles of leaves in the backyard. Football was always very sense driven for me as a young athlete. Ever since I wore my first pair of cleats, I loved the way they clinked on the concrete while marching to the field, or how the mix of freshly cut grass and spray paint lets me know it’s football season. Then there are some memories that are sparked by our senses that are not as pleasant and cannot always be forgotten. No matter how hard we try to forget, a certain smell, sound or sight can cause that memory to once again rear its ugly head. That muggy day in August, when I was in my stance, hands shaking, mouthpiece grinding, I heard a sound that has stuck with me for 14 years, and it wasn’t the coach’s’ whistle.

In football, it’s important to be fast, it’s important to be aware and it’s very important to be first to complete your job when the ball is snapped. The beginning of a football play is very quick, multiple things are happening all around you and if you do your job, and your teammates do their jobs then success should follow. After coach blew his whistle and the play began, things were moving fast, I was concentrating on my job, focusing how I could perform my best on this one play in practice. Then everything seemed to completely stop, but I couldn’t fully comprehend what was going on around me. Then I heard it, a cracking sound that seemed so loud it could have been mistaken for a massive oak crying out as its trunk split in half. Just like the imaginary oak tree, I began to fall straight back, and as I looked up I saw the blue, fall sky pass through my facemask. Once I hit the ground, the dust raised slightly around the outline of my shoulder pads. When my helmet hit the practice field, everything seemed to snap back to normal, and the pain really set in. I tried to raise my head off the ground to get a better vantage point. I knew something was wrong, something didn’t FEEL right but I still couldn’t grasp what was happening. When I saw my left leg my senses exploded and panic began to sit in. I had severely snapped my lower leg in half and dislocated my ankle. During this particular play, a teammate happened to fall on my left leg, a fall that has happened in football a million times, but it only takes one moment in our lives to completely derail all of our plans. What becomes most important in this life is how we decide to accept our new challenges and get back on track. We will all go through horrible times in our lives, it is not one of the many great aspects of this world, but if we can find a way to persevere and prevail, then we can find a real reason to keep kickin’! (although I wasn’t going to be nailing any game winning field goals in the near future).

When I discuss my “real life lessons on one leg”, I put a heavy emphasis on the REAL aspect. When I broke my leg, it was REAL and it was gruesome, needless to say they wouldn’t have shown the replay on ESPN. I do not discuss my injury to deter young athletes from football, nor do I talk about breaking my leg in a grisly manner to “gross” anyone out; but life is real and life is unexpected, and unfortunately life can be gruesome. Once I knew I was dealing with a very serious situation, my entire body began to ache in pain. Every time I took a breath, every time the wind blew, and most importantly, every time I thought about not playing football, I was in pain. Football meant the world to me, and lying on that field, waiting on the ambulance, the thought of having football taken away from me was extremely demoralizing. I’ve been around football for a large part of my life; all the way from hanging on Dad’s leg when he walked up and down the sidelines coaching, to laying on the practice field thinking, did this just happen to me?! That was the hardest part in the beginning, asking the question WHY? Why me? How could this happen? No way this happens to me, right? Tough times in our lives do not discriminate; there was no reason why I broke my leg, I was not chosen or picked to tell this story, but it is MY story and I cherish every day that I get to tell it.

When the paramedics finally arrived and I was loaded into the ambulance, the only feeling sweeping over me was physical and emotional shock. When I heard the sirens, I was actually happy, my senses kicked in again and I told myself, “I’m going to be alright, athletes deal with injuries all the time, I’ll be back next season”. I was even able to joke around with the paramedics and told them their clock was wrong when they loaded me up. Little did I know, when those heavy ambulance doors swung shut, the whirlwind that was to become my life was no joking matter.

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