COLUMBIA — Loudell Crumpler, a redshirt freshman on the MU soccer team, runs hard, practices drills like everyone else and plays with energy. This all seems pretty standard until you notice the large brace on her left knee.
Last season, in an exhibition match against Southern Methodist University, Crumpler dislocated her knee cap and left the game after playing only 15 minutes.
"My whole body was in shock," Crumpler said of her injury. "I looked down and my knee was to the side. It's almost like I went from straight calm and cool to ... I just lost it."
Crumpler, a freshman at the time, was told that her season would be over and that she would have to become a redshirt and wait for next year. Since soccer was such a big part of her life, the news was difficult for her to hear.
"Before I got injured, I was just playing 90 minutes a game, never subbing out" Crumpler said. "Coming and then hurting my knee, it's kind of like a realization of I'm at a new level. I'm not the big fish in the little pond anymore."
Crumpler has been playing soccer since she was 10 years old. She has been a part of club teams, her high school team and even the Olympic Development Program.
Getting back onto the field quickly was very important to her. After surgery, she wore crutches, moved on to a straight leg brace and now has a knee brace that she will continue to wear all season.
Despite her time away from the game and the physical strains of rehab, Crumpler says she feels "blessed" to have experienced this injury.
"It really made me realize a lot," Crumpler said. "Going through that rough patch, it really wears you down mentally. Something like that, you have to be really mentally tough. Coming back, I almost felt like I was a new person."
Crumpler is from Texas but chose MU over other offers because of a summer camp she used to attend when she was young. Kanakuk Kamps offers Christian camps held in Branson, Mo. According to its mission, the camp has "been providing America's premiere Christian summer camp experience for nearly a century."
"I've gone there for four or five years, and I just absolutely fell in love with Missouri," Crumpler said.
One of the best parts of being on the Missouri team, Crumpler says, is the support she receives in all aspects of her life.
"The team just felt like sisters," Crumpler said. "I'm really into going to church and Bible study, and the first few weeks our team had a big Bible study, and I just thought, God put me here for a reason."
Crumpler hopes to work her way back to full function this season, and her coaches are taking precautions to help her get there.
"She's been working hard," associate head coach Brian Dooley said. "She's really put herself into a position where she's getting some playing time, and she has a very high talent level.
"Our goal is to make sure she's at her best by the time the SEC games come around," Dooley continued.
As much as she is looking forward to this season, Crumpler is mainly just happy to be back playing.
"I feel almost like I have myself back," Crumpler said.
The Tigers are 1-1 this season, with a home win against Pacific University and a road loss to Memphis. The team's next game is 6:30 p.m. Friday against Southeast Missouri State. The game will be played at Walton Stadium.