"You know, my real sport is baseball," I told my mom. "I want to get a baseball scholarship. I play football because I like it, but I don't want to sit on the bench. I don't feel like I'm going to get an opportunity, and maybe I'd be better off playing fall baseball and trying to get a baseball scholarship."
My mom took a deep breath. "That's a valid point. I wouldn't want to sit the bench any more than you do. So if you don't want to play, you don't have to play. But remember this: when you least expect it, that opportunity will present itself. You never know when it's going to come, but all it takes is one play."
I sat there and thought about what she'd said. My mother was an athlete and a competitor, and I valued her opinion. Besides, with a grandfather who was a coach and an uncle who'd played for the University of Texas, I didn't want to feel like I was missing out on some experiences. This might be something I'll regret for the rest of my life if I don't at least follow through with this year.
"You know what?" I said. "I think I'll stick it out for a little bit longer, and we'll see how it goes. I'm not going to quit midway through two-a-days."
Mom nodded and smiled. In retrospect, I think the fact that she didn't push me one way or the other freed me up to think clearly for myself. As it turned out, her words rang true the very next week.
One JV quarterback had decided to play baseball and the other moved to defense, so I was second in line to Johnny Rodgers. It was the last scrimmage of the year against Killeen, a tough team com-prised mostly of kids whose parents were in the military, stationed at nearby Fort Hood. With the season just one week away, this was the final dress rehearsal. Near the end of the game, when there was only one series left, Johnny dropped back to pass, hoping to end the scrimmage on a high note. In a split second, everything changed for me. Johnny got sacked in the backfield, and in the process he tore his ACL, putting him out for the entire year. One minute I was the guy who would ride the bench all season, and the next I was thrust into the role of starting JV quarterback.
Our JV team went 10–0 my sophomore year. In my junior year, I was the varsity starter. We were undefeated going into the third round of the playoffs.
That's when I tore my ACL.
An injury like that can change your life. I had no doubt about that—after all, that was the reason I was the starting quarterback. Johnny Rodgers had returned, but he was now our starting free safety. I had seen other players who tore their ACLs either recover really slowly or not come back at all. I was sure this was the worst thing that could have happened to me. It was the third round of the playoffs. We were going to state, and we were going to win the championship. Suddenly my season was over. Our team lost in the next round.
I had been getting recruiting letters from some good schools, but when I blew out my knee, all the letters stopped. No school wanted to touch me. The worst part about it was that I would also miss the entire basketball and baseball seasons. And in my mind, my number one priority was still to get a baseball scholarship. I was only a junior in high school, and it felt like my life was over.
I had a six-month rehabilitation process, and I had to make a decision: Was I going to quit or come back stronger? I chose to come back.