Facebook

Howard was tested mentally, emotionally and spiritually

Nursing an injury may have opened a new career path

By John Clayton, Staff Reporter
Published on Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enlarge photo

Justin Howard, senior safety, has a lot to smile about after overcoming a season-ending injury in 2011 to play for Blue Ridge High School.

John Clayton

Justin Howard, senior safety, has a lot to smile about after overcoming a season-ending injury in 2011 to play for Blue Ridge High School.



Enlarge photo

Justin Howard considers fighting through a stiff-armed ball carrier lightweight work compared to his comeback from a fracture of his L-4 vertebrae suffered during 7-on-7 workouts that summer.

John Clayton

Justin Howard considers fighting through a stiff-armed ball carrier lightweight work compared to his comeback from a fracture of his L-4 vertebrae suffered during 7-on-7 workouts that summer.



Enlarge photo

Everything is fun this year for Justin Howard of the Tigers. Each passing week may mean the end of his playing career.

John Clayton

Everything is fun this year for Justin Howard of the Tigers. Each passing week may mean the end of his playing career.

Justin Howard, a senior safety on the Blue Ridge football team, remembers the season opener against Wade Hampton in 2011.

He saw it all from the sidelines after discovering a fracture of his L-4 vertebrae suffered during 7-on-7 workouts that summer.

“I didn’t know how much I loved the game until I sat out pretty much all of last year,” Howard said. “I remember sitting out the Wade Hampton game and how devastated I was, so when I got to step on the field against Wade Hampton last week, it was very fulfilling … It means a whole lot.”

Howard, who started every game as a sophomore, was able to return for minimal action last year, but targeted 2012 for a true return to the game.

Not even a broken thumb suffered in a scrimmage with Chesnee could stop him.

After what he went through last year, Howard said he was determined to be in the starting lineup when the season opened Friday night at Wade Hampton.

He was, and the Tigers came away with a 27-13 victory.

But soon after the injury, Howard said he had doubts about returning to the game.

“The doctors said I could’ve played the whole season and it might hold up,” he said. “Or I could’ve played the next play and I could’ve broken it. Obviously, it wasn’t worth the risk.”

So, he became “Coach Howard,” attending practices and working with his fellow defensive backs last season.

“He was an inspiration to a lot of our players and was one of our leaders,” said Blue Ridge Head Coach Wade Cooper. “That’s carried over into this year on the field as well as in the locker room.”

Even though Howard said he learned a lot from viewing the game like a coach, staying on the sidelines was a test for him mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

“It was difficult physically because I hurt,” he said. “It was difficult because I missed the game – I had to watch from the sidelines, but it was also difficult spiritually because I just wasn’t sure what God’s plan was in all this, so all those aspects combined made it difficult.

“It was difficult, but it was a journey and it taught me a little bit more about life.”

Howard said he figured on playing college football as he headed into his junior season, but now, he isn’t sure if his body will hold up against the rigors of the college game.

He may have discovered another path for his future.

“Coaching is definitely something I’ll consider,” Howard said. “Not just because I love the game, but because I want to be able to help young people the way my coaches have worked with me.”

For now, the black cast on Howard’s left arm will be wrapped in a white protective padding for practices and games, and that’s OK with him.

He doesn’t want to miss a thing after a season spent mostly on the sidelines.

“I’ve got one more year guaranteed of this,” he said. “So, I’m going to soak it up and enjoy it as much as I can.”

Share



Related Photo Galleries


Leave a Comment



Trending: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, Obituaries, Chon Restaurant, Allen Bennett Hospital