COLUMBIA — After three knee surgeries and months of rehabilitation, strong safety and running back Will Owens is back and making an impact on both sides of the ball.
"He had his last surgery in July," Hickman head coach Arnel Monroe said. "He's just now hitting his stride."
During the course of his high school career Owens has had two surgeries on his left knee and one on his right knee. All three were done to repair separate meniscus tears.
"The first time it happened was during wrestling season when I was a sophomore," Owens said.
Although Owens only missed half of one game last season, knee problems have been a constant issue for him. After his surgery in July, Owens spent the rest of his summer rehabbing his knee to get back on the field.
"I've had to do a lot of running, stretching and lifting and stuff to strengthen my legs," Owens said. "It was intense. We wanted to strengthen my thighs to make sure I didn't get another tear. If I got another tear, that would be crazy."
Secondary coach Ben Smith has been very supportive of Owens, not only this season but also over the summer. He even drove Owens to therapy and stressed to him the importance of rehabilitation.
"I've done that a few times," Smith said. "At times he has had trouble getting to his rehab appointments, and I think that has been part of the issue. That might be why some of those problems have lingered a little bit — because he hasn't rehabbed it as much as he needed to."
Owens now wears a brace on his left leg for support but hasn't shown many lingering effects of the injuries in his play.
"I haven't had any problems with it so far," he said.
He scored a touchdown last week against Hazelwood West and helped the Kewpies dominate a fourth quarter against Wentzville Holt on Sept. 2, running in three two-point conversions and breaking loose for a 59-yard run.
His real contribution to the team has been on defense, where he starts at strong safety.
"He's playing at a real high level," Smith said. "He has been a difference-maker playing defense."
Despite his knee problems, Owens would like to play football in college. He said he's looked at MU and the University of Central Missouri.
"That's the plan," Owens said of playing college football. "That's my passion."