By Micah Neese—
Last month, a 70-pound dumbbell fell on my right foot and broke three of my toes. I couldn’t throw the football, run, jump, or do any of the athletic things I used to do. I was bored out of my mind and frustrated by the experience.
LSU has seen injuries slow down and even end the careers of some of their most high profile players.
Leonard Fournette, the most talented player to ever come into LSU’s program had a stellar, near perfect 2,000-yard sophomore year. His junior year was set to be a Heisman campaign. Unfortunately, a pesky high ankle injury bothered him throughout the season. His numbers were a paltry 843 yards rushing in just seven games played, destroying his chances of any post-season glory. Even in the NFL, Fournette’s injuries have limited his impact. For a guy as freakishly talented as Fournette was, the athletic trainer’s office has unfortunately become his second home.
Perhaps the most heart wrenching and yet inspiring story is that of Chad Jones. Jones was a safety for LSU in the prime of the Les Miles era, but was unique in that not only did he win the 2007 championship with LSU football, but also was part of the 2009 LSU baseball world series victory.
While Jones was an incredible multi-sport athlete, his plan was to pursue an NFL career. As an early third round pick, this seemed like a promising option. On a July morning in 2010 Jones was carefully cut out of his car after a terrible accident in downtown New Orleans. Initial reports labeled him dead. A wheel axle had impaled his left leg from his heel to his thigh; a gruesome injury. His body was destroyed and his NFL career was ruined.
It took Jones months of strenuous physical therapy just to walk and recover a little bit of his old athleticism. Then he turned his sights on remaking a baseball career. He was limited in the variety of movements he could produce, keeping him from playing safety in the NFL, but in baseball camps he impressed scouts with his pitching. In 2013, he was picked in the third round of the MLB draft by the Cincinnati Reds. Although he never progressed in the MLB, he was able to do all an athlete can ever hope to do, which is stay in the fight. In doing so he was triumphant, against not just those who doubted he would ever walk onto a mound again, but against the biggest rival in sports: injury.
Even the toughest most invincible men can be sidelined by injury. Joe Burrow himself might not have come to LSU if it weren’t for a finger injury in his throwing hand that he suffered at Ohio State during spring practice. Burrow was in a battle with Dwayne Haskins, vying for the backup quarterback job to J.T. Barrett as a redshirt freshman, when he was hit by a defensive end and broke a finger in his right hand. Dwayne Haskins stepped into the backup role ahead of Burrow and would get the extra reps during the season. When the next spring came around Haskins had a leg up in the race for the job as the next Ohio State quarterback. Joe Burrow would transfer that summer to LSU and the rest is history.
If that defensive end hadn’t hit Burrow the right way, LSU might not have a single trophy or championship ring from this year. Instead a fateful accident changed history for the better and LSU’s hardware displays are brimming with every form of precious metal.
These stories show that no injury is the same and they are an inevitable part of sports. For some, it leads to an even greater career, for others it is career ending. For everyone, they are a trial to overcome and try to be the better for the experience. I am hoping that happens for me as well. Maybe I will look back on these broken toes and see that they were the start of something great!