COLUMBIA — Darryn Hill still has his helmet on, the black-and-green chin strap snapped in place.
His mouthguard is tucked into a gap on the left side of his face mask. His all-purpose gloves, black with white stripes, hang crossed at his waist.
Rock Bridge’s football practice ended a few minutes earlier, but Hill spent the majority of it on the sideline.
All of his football gear is neatly tucked in place. It has been for a while. This is a sign that Hill is ready to play football again.
But over his practice jersey is a piece of red mesh. It acts as a stop sign for other players charging at him, the reverse of a bull fight. Hill wears it as he works to recover from breaking his left collarbone twice.
“I’ve been getting in a little bit at practice,” Hill, a senior, said. “Some running back stuff, catching the ball with the receivers, just trying to stay fresh, stay focused. I watch the plays. I take mental reps. I’ve been taking lots of mental reps. I want to go out there and play. Every high school young man wants to go out there and play.”
He remembers the play when he broke his collarbone the first time. It happened Oct. 24 of last season playing quarterback against Blue Springs South. Hill had collected 90 passing yards, including a 64-yard touchdown pass, but injuries to his offensive line allowed the Jaguars to put him under pressure late in the game.
On one play, three Jaguars broke through the Bruins offensive line and chased Hill as he ran backwards. He had the opportunity to dump the ball but finally fell under the weight of a sack from the son of a former Chiefs defensive legend and a Hall of Famer.
“I broke it against Derrick Thomas’s son (Derrion Thomas), the outside linebacker,” Hill said. “I just remember dropping back to pass, and I just remember getting pounced on. I was freaking out. I tried to get back up, but it hurt so much, I couldn’t.”
Hill regained his footing after a few moments and walked off the field. After the game, he went to the hospital for X-rays and didn’t get back home until about 2 a.m.
The collarbone suffered a clean break, which meant Hill would have to wait for it to heal. He missed the remainder of the season, just one game, and returned to the team for offseason practices.
Hill shifted to running back after playing at quarterback last season. During one practice, he received the ball during an intrasquad practice and began running to the left.
Two players were at his legs, but Hill kept pushing forward. Rock Bridge defensive lineman Chase Rome, a 6-foot-3-inch, 280 pound Oklahoma State recruit who had four inches and 95 pounds on Hill, slammed into Hill, driving him to the ground.
Hill’s collarbone had come back together at an angle after his first injury, somewhat in the shape of a V. If it had been perfectly straight, it would’ve been stronger and might have been able to withstand what was about to happen.
Hill landed awkwardly on his shoulder and felt that pop as his collarbone broke one more time.
“Out of everyone, it had to happen to me,” he said. “I just remember feeling a pop. I thought, ‘Ah, it’s broken.’ I got up and I was like, ‘Dang, I can’t play no more.’”
Hill said this was the most difficult time in his recovery from his first broken collarbone. He had surgery to place seven screws and a steel plate into his shoulder and has been taking a lot of protein and calcium pills in order to return quicker.
Hill also tried a new system called Advanced Recovery Performance, a type of stimulation that allows athletes to recover quicker from injuries. He has been cleared to play on Oct. 23, one day short of a year after breaking his collarbone the first time.
The Bruins will be playing Blue Springs that day, the same team Hill originally broke his collarbone against. Hill isn’t thinking about the game as a chance to do anything extra, however.
“I really haven’t thought of it like that,” Hill said. “It’s going to take a while to get back and play my senior year, but I’m really looking forward to playing my last two games. I think I have an advantage on other people because I’m going to be fresh and I know this offense. I can run anything on this offense — wide out, slot (receiver), running back, quarterback, everything.”
Everybody has finished practice and has since gone into the locker room, but Hill throws a football for a few minutes before he jogs to the locker room. He climbs down the 11 steps and finally takes off his helmet.