EAST MOLINE, Ill. — One of the most common sports injuries is a torn ACL. For Grayson Anderson, who plays football at United Township, this kind of injury has unfortunately become a new normal for him.
Back on March 5, 2021, during basketball season, Anderson was coming down from a rebound when he landed awkwardly and tore his left ACL. He had surgery later that year on April 30.
"As I was going through it, there was a lot of questions asked. A lot of you know, what happens next? When can I start moving?" Anderson said. "I'm a competitive guy, so I was wanting to get back as soon as possible."
After going through surgery, then rehab and a knee brace that became part of his everyday wardrobe, Anderson was playing in his first game back on the field when a pain that was all too familiar came back.
On Aug. 26, 2022, during a no-contact play, Anderson tore his ACL again. This time it was on the right side.
"This is a pain that I felt only one time before and it was so different than anything else," Anderson said. "In the moment ... I knew exactly what it was because (it's) something I've only felt twice."
Once again Anderson went through the routine of surgery and rehab.
"The second time was way tougher," Anderson said. "The first time I felt close to myself. But the second time, it was a lot more, 'Holy cow. What happens now? '"
United Township head coach Nick Welch spoke highly of Anderson's talent.
"The kid was going to play varsity football as a freshman on arguably the best UT team in 20+ years, so it tells you how talented he was," he said.
Despite all the adversity, Anderson never missed a game and barely missed practice.
"In three years, he missed two practices, and that was the two days after his ACL surgery last year," Welch said. "In the spring, he didn't miss anything ... never missed a workout even though he couldn't participate, never missed a meeting. He almost became a coach on the field."
Having only ever played 22 minutes of high school football, Anderson earned a spot as captain for setting the standard off the field.
"He doesn't make excuses, and so it's really his vocal leadership, but also his model leadership that stands out," Welch said.
While watching from the sidelines, Anderson couldn't help but wonder whether he would ever play a down of football again.
More than two years later after the first tear, Anderson finally returned to the field on his senior night. While it might not have been a win on the scoreboard for the Panthers, it was for him.
"After the game, I mean, it was it was hard to be upset," Anderson said. "Because after all your surgeries, all the therapy and whatnot, I was able to walk, I walked myself out of that game. I don't think you could have wiped the smile off my face."
With only two games under his belt this season, Anderson knows there's still more to prove.
"There's still a lot of unknowns. A lot of coaches told me, 'We don't have film on you.' And I'm like, that's completely fair," Anderson said. "They don't know what I can do. And so this year is about proving to myself first and then proving to others whether or not I can compete."
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