Hickman lineman fighting knee injury

Friday, October 12, 2007 | 1:30 a.m. CDT; updated 10:13 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Hickman senior Antwayn Spears has his injured knee wrapped by student trainer Jesse Little.

COLUMBIA — It looked like Antwayn Spears was going to be able to finish his senior season for the Hickman football team.

A torn ACL and a sprained MCL in his right knee sidelined Spears for the Kewpies’ season opener, but he wanted to play through the injury. He couldn’t miss his last season of high school football.

But desire might not be enough. The odds were slim for him. A bad slip or fall, and the season might be over. When that would happen was the question that remained.

“That’s just what football is,” Spears said. “You’re going to get hurt.”

His goal of playing out the season came to an end on Oct. 5 in St. Louis, when the Kewpies were playing Vashon. During the first quarter, Spears re-injured his knee and had to be carried off the field by his teammates for the second time this year.

“I was pass-blocking and I had my back turned,” Spears said. “I guess someone just hit me on the right side of my knee, and I couldn’t get up at all.”

It was similar to the first knee injury he suffered during a June football camp at the University of Central Missouri. He opted to postpone surgery until after the season. The team meant too much to let the opportunity to play slip by him.

“I wanted to play football my senior year, especially for Hickman, because it’s every guy’s dream to play for Hickman, and I’ve got that opportunity,” he said. “I wanted to get a good shot with a good note, just me playing as hard as I can, even though I have one (good) leg. I just want to be together with the team.”

Hickman coach Jason Wright took notice of Spears’ determination to get back in the game. Spears wanting to play through injury came as no surprise to Wright, who has known Spears since he was a ball boy for the Kewpies.

“When (Antwayn) went down in June, my heart just literally seemed like it was ripped out,” Wright said. “I felt tremendously bad when that happened, but that just shows you what type of person he is, electing to play on it. His personality and his character allowed him to get through it and play.”

While surgery before the season was an option, Spears wanted nothing of it when he found out it would mean the end of his high school football days. Wright said that for Spears to play at the level he did while injured was “truly amazing.”

“It’s not something that somebody can do everyday, I guarantee you,” Wright said.

Spears also received some inspiration from a fellow teammate who shared the same mind-set when it came to playing through the pain.

“My friend, J’Shon Johnson, he has to have surgery on his shoulder,” Spears said. “He just goes all out, even though he has a pain in his shoulder. He doesn’t care. He’s just ready to play.”

Spears was sure that his season was over after the second injury. He felt there was no way he could come back twice in one year. He was just hoping that he could have surgery and get his knee repaired so he could get back on two feet sooner.

The fate of Spears’ season was not finalized until after Spears met with Dr. Pat Smith on Wednesday morning at Columbia Orthopaedic Group.

Going into the appointment, Spears had assumed the worst. Team trainers told him that if he had injured the meniscus in his right knee, his season had come to an end.

But Spears received good news from Smith. After looking at an MRI of Spears’ knee, Smith told Spears that he had only re-sprained his MCL. Since the injury was not as severe as Spears was told, surgery could be postponed until after the season, and there is a chance that he could be back in action for the Kewpies’ final regular season game against Jefferson City.

Spears couldn’t hold back smiling.

“That gives me a chance to play my last home game for the last time,” Spears said.

In the meantime, Spears will spend the next few weeks rehabilitating his knee through leg press lifts and running. Junior Josh Harvey is one of Spears’ teammates that has been encouraging him during the season while he came back from his injury.

“We’re just trying to get his mind off his injury and more on getting better,” Harvey said. “We’ll be lifting and be like, ‘Oh, are you going to do some squats today?’ It’s one of those times where you just get down on yourself because you feel you’re letting your team down and you feel like you’re letting yourself down.”

Despite the good news for Spears, he said the timing of his injury could not have been worse. Although Hickman has gone 4-1 since his return, the Kewpies face Rock Bridge Friday night at Faurot Field in the Providence Bowl.

“Playing a rival for the last time and you don’t get to play in that game, it kind of hurts a little bit,” Spears said. “It’s going to be hard for me to watch my friends play.”

For now, Spears will have to wait on the sidelines, wearing a leg brace that extends nearly down to his right ankle, still hoping for chance at one final game as a Kewpie.

“It would mean a lot to me just to have a Hickman uniform on for the last time,” Spears said.

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