Rock Bridge lineman overcomes two surgeries to play senior year

Friday, September 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Rock Bridge senior Skyler Hinton prepares to hike the ball during practice Tuesday. Hinton spent last year sidelined after he broke his leg at the September 12, 2008, game against McCluer North of Florissant. Hinton has defied doctor's projections and expects to help the Bruins better last season's 1-9 record.

COLUMBIA — Skyler Hinton has recovered from an injury requiring two surgeries faster than predicted to return to the Rock Bridge offensive line as a center.

In Rock Bridge's third game last season, Hinton broke the fibula in his left leg and three days later had surgery to place a plate in his leg. His doctor estimated it would take Hinton between six and eight months to return but had seen patients that took as long as a year to recover.

“I told him I would be back before then,” Hinton said. “When I was in my cast, I started walking when I wasn’t supposed to because I felt so good. I ended up wearing the bottom of that out a week and a half before I was supposed to go back in. The doctor, my parents — they thought I was coming back too fast.”

He returned to the Bruins' basketball team three months after his surgery and worked himself into shape by doing drills and playing. Hinton said the only problem he had during rehab was getting back his running form. He said he felt awkward after not having done it for more than three months.

Running proved beneficial for him. Hinton estimates he gained about 10 pounds, which bumped him up to 315, while not being active after the surgery.

Rock Bridge football coach A.J. Ofodile and assistant coach Justin Conyers shared some dietary tips with Hinton to help him get back into shape as quickly as possible.

“We’re big people,” Ofodile said. “We like to eat. It’s easy at a time when you’re not able to be fully active to gain weight. I can obviously relate to that. It’s just making wise choices and staying away from things that have a negative effect. Just the basic, normal, common sense stuff.”

Basketball season ended in mid-March, and Hinton began spring football practices six months after his surgery, the earliest he was projected to come back. There was just one change. Hinton was moved from left tackle, a position he played his junior year, to center.

“It was a common sense transition for him to move to the center position,” Ofodile said. “He’s a very good ball handler. He can throw the football about 70 yards. He’s a basketball player, obviously. He’s a hands-eye coordination guy. He can snap the ball and make things time up for us. It just made sense for us.”

But there was just one problem. The plate in Hinton’s leg began acting up.

“There was some swelling in my leg,” he said. “I got to the point where it was real hard to move around in a football sense.”

He returned to his doctor, and they discussed removing the plate on a Wednesday. Hinton stepped outside of the office to discuss the surgery with his mother before going back inside to say he wanted to have the second surgery.

The plate was removed the next day, and Hinton’s doctor told him it would be eight weeks until he should be active again. The drill holes that were opened in the second surgery needed time to heal.

Hinton returned to the football practice field after four days. He joined the team on a Monday for workouts, said he was 95 percent on that Tuesday, and his leg hasn’t bothered him since.

This season is a big one in Hinton’s football career and could determine his future. He is a senior who has had two of his past three seasons interrupted by injury. (Hinton also missed time his freshman year because of shoulder trouble.)

“It’s got to be about the team,” he said. “The last couple of years haven’t gone as we wanted in terms of a team aspect. They’re not going to look at too many kids coming from 1-9 (the Bruins record the past two seasons) schools. I think I could do enough that I could play at a good school and get a scholarship.”

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