I wanted to provide a re-cap for the 2017 season. I will preface this by explaining how this has been the most emotionally tough season I have had in my 11 years. It was full of ups and downs. I laughed. I cried. I fell apart. I got back up. I want to be true to my thoughts and emotions during this season because I feel describing my experiences superficially will not help anyone.
After the news that I didn’t make Team USA, I tried to take comfort in knowing that at least I could then focus on the regular season with my home team. I thought that if I could just physically get back on the field that everything would go back to the way it was before my injury. I think I subconsciously thought as well that my role on the team would also be restored.
You see, I loved that role. I loved being the veteran that people looked up to. I loved being the veteran that coaches trusted. I never expected to be handed anything as that is not in my nature. I thrived in the role of gritty player that made shit happen. It was my passion to be a leader by example.
I came into the season thinking that I would work my way through the growing pains of coming back from a horrific injury and be allowed the freedom to do so. That is not at all what happened. I had been tagged as injured. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get rid of it.
And even though I knew physically I wasn’t yet at where I was previously, I knew also that my experience would pay off and that I would naturally get better as I got healthier. My expectation for freedom to fail and scrap my way to where I was, was the dagger that stuck my heart when I learned that others did not share that vision of granting me that freedom.
It fucked with my head. Bad. I felt betrayed. I felt angry. I felt emotionally disconnected from the game. I had to fight for my spot multiple times during the season. This is frustrating to go from someone who progressively earned their way to that spot in the first place. I was on a short leash. I questioned everything I was doing because every move was questioned. Even when I was playing well. Even though I led my team in tackles. The entire time I felt scared to do something wrong.
My confidence was destroyed. I spent nights crying. I wasn’t having fun in the one area of my life that had always been fun. I couldn’t believe I had worked so hard to have people not believe in me in me anymore. I started not to believe in myself. I listened to the doubt. The entire season was an emotional drain. I was miserable.
I had to focus on the positive. I had to focus on the smaller victories. I had to rebuild myself. I had to push the bullshit away. I listened to the people who were in my corner and did believe in me. I knew what I’m capable of. I knew I wasn’t finished. I knew I will only get better. I knew that at some point I won’t be denied.
I watched this video a lot:
I prayed and I thought, God, surely there is a point to this. Is this my Karate Kid moment where I’ve been waxing a car for months and I don’t get the purpose to it until it hits me later? I’m hoping so. As Inky Johnson said, it’s about the process. If I can focus on the process eventually it will produce.
Now when I look back I realize that 2016 was the year of physical rehab and 2017 has been the year of emotional rehab. Despite the tough year, I still led my team in tackles, my teammates voted me captain, and I got back to a 1st Team All-American Selection. Considering the hell I have been through, I’m going to hang my hat on that.
I went to check in with my orthopedic doctor about a month ago and he said I’m OK to try to ween myself off my large brace. I’m starting to use a smaller soft brace more and I hope I’m able to use that next season. It seems like a small detail but it’s actually a major one as a the larger brace is cumbersome and slows me down. I’ve been working on speed training and I think it’s really helping. I’m hiring a trainer in the fall as well to work on explosion on my left leg.
I shared an update with my physical therapist and she sent me this response which really made my day:
I leave for Pittsburgh this week for the All-American game, which means more to me than the other 5 I have been to. I had to fight even myself to get this one.