I wanted to hold on to the invincible athletic persona that I build myself up to be that I didn’t want to let anyone in. You know show no weakness. I can’t speak for every athlete that has dealt with something alone like an ACL, but for me, I knew that most of society clowned athletes that showed emotions and were real. We call them divas, soft, weak to name a few, as a high school senior I didn’t want anyone saying those things about me because deep down I cared what people thought.

Humble Pie

Life will humble you quickly and that Friday night I got a big serving of it. If you miss Part 1 of this story, check it out here. I was just told I might have torn my ACL, crushing this future I had planned for myself revolving around sports and the game of football. So here we are on Saturday, the day of the homecoming dance and this torture of a test called the SAT. Full disclosure I am a terrible test taker, you need me to be creative I can do that in a heartbeat but asking me to sit in a room for hours to take a test is unjust.

That morning I arrived at RHS in time for this dreadful test trying not to think about my knee. However, that’s hard to do when everyone you see is asking you what happened. In no way was my mind was on this test. Making it worse, I walk into the classroom and one of the guys on the Berkner team we played last night is there. We looked at each other, he sees my knee in the brace and gives me one of those dang dude types of soft smiles.

In my head, I’m comparing my life to his, thinking this dude has it made. By then I believe he had already accepted an offer to a D1 college, he was healthy and so forth; everything I wish my life was. Now as I look back it’s crazy for how I wanted to trade lives with this dude based on the things I could see but who knows he could have been going through some things personally himself.

To save the time on this story the SAT sucked I couldn’t focus, my knee was in pain, and I was hungry. The only positive thing I could think of at the time was the homecoming dance that night. My 3-piece grey suit with the navy blue tie was fire. The dance was a good time, but when you have a torn ACL, the Stanky Leg is the last dance you should try to do. I learned the hard way on that one.

What You Came To Read

This where the story goes from 0 -100. The whole day I have been trying to put on this front for everyone showing how positive and optimistic I am about everything. But on the inside, there was no glimpse of light, it’s just dark.

You ever have those days where you pretend for those around you that everything is perfect because you’re scared if they knew the truth.

What would people think if I began to peel off this armor of an image I built these years?

I wanted to hold on to the invincible athletic persona that I build myself up to be that I didn’t want to let anyone in. You know show no weakness. I can’t speak for every athlete that has dealt with something deep alone, but for me, I knew that most of society clowned athletes that showed emotions and were real. We call them divas, soft, weak to name a few, as a high school senior I didn’t want anyone saying those things about me because deep down I cared what people thought.

Am I Depressed?

Saturday was that day for me. I did a great job hiding my fears and insecurities until after the dance at the after party we had at a friend’s house. I just remember at one point of the night sneaking away outside just to sit alone by the hot tub, replaying that play in my head over and over thinking what I could have done differently. Faking happiness was draining and by that night the reality of oh crap my athletic days are probably over hit me hard. I can legit say I was in full depression and I don’t think anyone knew.

For some reading this you probably think this guy is dramatic, but at the time in 2011, you didn’t see stories in the media about athletes tearing their ACL and making the huge comebacks. All I am thinking about is the stories you hear about star running backs that blew out their knees and never played again.

For a good while I wasn’t myself, I did not talk to people as much, not only because I was depressed about the situation, but I really did not know who I was without sports in my life. My identity that I carried me for 17 years was gone.

New Relationship

I promise I am going somewhere with this story and the depression. This whole time I felt alone, that I had no one to talk to that understood what I was going through and wouldn’t judge me on my emotions.

That all change that one day when I ran into my trainer that had been one of the father figures in my life since junior high, Coach Eddie Jackson. We talked a little bit about what happened, by then I had the MRI to confirm I had torn my ACL. At some point in the conversation, we got on the topic of playing again in college or at least making it back for outdoor track season.

He asked me about my faith. At the time I was one of those yeah I believe in God and would occasionally go to church when my mom asked me to go with her. But I didn’t have a relationship with God if that makes sense.

Coach Jackson said, “Only a praying man can get through this.”

I think about those words all the time. Til this day I don’t think I ever told him how much of an impact that conversation had on my life and my faith.

Before that day, I can honestly say that I could count the number of times I prayed without being told on two hands. That conversation alone change my perspective on life to realize even though I thought I was alone, I wasn’t. From that moment, I knew I had someone willing to just listen and run to with all my fears, depression, anxiety and every other emotion I was feeling at the time.

Tearing my ACL led me to build a relationship with God. At my weakest moment, he gave me the strength to know that we got this. This new relationship became the catalyst for this whole situation. I went from being why me, to why not me? Why can’t I be the athlete that recovers from an ACL tear fast enough to make it back for part of the track season and to walk-on at a Division I football program that upcoming fall?

Uphill Battle Ahead

The right mindset is key to achieving anything, but I had no clue on the uphill battle I was about to face bringing these ambitious goals to life after surgery. To many the idea of me sprinting full speed in 5 months by April was impossible. The next step finding a surgeon and physical therapist that believed in my dream just as much as I did.

The purpose of this part 2 of this story is to give a glimpse of why I started 9INE POINT Mag. There is not a place for athletes to hear real stories about athletes going through similar situations as them. Why not? It’s time we showcase the real journey, not just the good times but the crappy ones in between too. We can help change the stigma, click here to become a DreamChaser.

Jacolby Gilliam

Jacolby is the founder and publisher of 9INE POINT Mag. As a former walk-on, he realized there are so many athletes with stories that are not being heard or told for various reasons. 9INE POINT Mag was born, as a platform to help athletes and those that support them share their stories and journey, regardless of your NCAA division, playing status, pro or semi-pro. Jacolby feels that every athlete has a journey that can inspire other athletes in the midst of theirs.
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