COLUMBIA — Nate Egharevba heard a "pop" this summer and knew something was wrong.
"Doctors told me it was a straight cut from the front of the knee to the back of my knee, like a knife straight through my meniscus," Egharevba said.
Rock Bridge (3-2)
at Helias Catholic (3-2)
WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Adkins Field, Jefferson City
Recalling the summer workout, he paused.
"I was really devastated as soon as I heard a pop," he said. "It ended up being the worst-case scenario."
The injury sidelined Egharevba, one of the leading receivers on the Rock Bridge football team last season, for the rest of the summer, and his senior season became doubtful.
"I felt extremely disappointed for him because he had a really good offseason, and I think he was poised for a hell of a senior year," Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said. "Obviously, things aren't always fair, and he definitely is not one that deserved to have that happen to him."
But after missing the first two games of the season, "Eggie," as his teammates call him, is back on the field playing for the Bruins – even though he is not at full strength.
"Yeah, I'm not 100 percent," Egharevba said with a smirk on his face. "Probably somewhere in the 90s."
One thing motivated his early return.
"It's my senior year," said Egharevba quickly, as if sitting out this season was not an option. "I've put work at it since freshman year. Finally, it's my time to help out the team, you know, make a lot of plays."
Despite not being fully healed, Egharevba, a captain for the Bruins, has been cleared to play by doctors. Although he went through months of rehabbing and conditioning, he still runs the risk of re-injuring his knee, which could subsequently end his football career.
"I mean, they kind of left it up to me," Egharevba said, shyly smiling at his own decision. "They said I could play, but there's always a risk of it happening, tearing again."
He looks to be safe so far. While it remains to be seen whether he will fully recover from his injury, he has proved to be an asset for the Bruins. He has five catches for 57 yards in three games of limited play, as he not only recuperates physically but also mentally.
"I think all things considered, he's played well," Ofodile said. "I think the biggest thing is him just regaining confidence that he is structurally sound. I mean, that's the hardest part for any kid coming off of an injury."
Even though Egharevba understands that his decision could affect him in the future, it still wasn't enough to prevent him from playing now.
"If I would have waited a lot longer, I mean yeah, my knee would probably be even better," Egharevba said. "But I would have missed out on this whole senior football experience."
It was an experience he was unwilling to sacrifice.
"I love football, so I don't really see it as a risk," he said. "I see it as something I have to do."