Jacob Rainey was a 225-pound, 17-year-old star quarterback for Woodberry Forest in Virginia when he got hit the wrong way, heard the wrong kind of pop, and this happened:
Teammates began to cry. At least one felt ill. Johnson stayed at Rainey’s side. Knee dislocations are associated with severed arteries and blood loss, potentially life-threatening injuries, which the Raineys would soon learn. The popliteal artery in Jacob’s leg had been ruptured, cutting off circulation to his lower limb.
Because of complications from the injury (and possibly medical malpractice), Rainey had to have his lower right leg amputated a week later. But, somehow, that's not necessarily going to be the end of his football career. Keith O'Brien tells the incredible story of his comeback at the The New York Times this weekend, and when you remember what we're talking about -- playing tackle football on one leg -- it's all kind of surreal. And yet:
Rainey’s dream is a legitimate one, at least from a rules standpoint. Since 1978, state athletic associations have had the authority to permit prostheses in sports. And many associations, including Woodberry’s, allow them. There is also a precedent for playing football — even quarterback. Jeremy Campbell, who was born without a right fibula and had his leg amputated as a young child, played several positions, including quarterback, during high school in Texas a few years ago.
But Rainey's attempting this almost overnight. Where most amputees less than a year into recovery would still be adjusting to life on one leg -- learning to walk comfortably, finding new ways to exercise, slowly gaining trust in the new prosthetic -- Rainey has been working with a strength coach, running sprints, and fighting his way back to a football field.
... And when he trusted the prosthesis, planting it into the turf, stepping into the throw with his left leg and then rotating his hips as he released the ball, he showed flashes of his old talent.
“My God, he’s a heckuva athlete,” Don Payne, one of the prosthetists, marveled. “Did you see what happened when he planted that leg and turned those hips into the throw? That ball was out 30 yards — bam — on a laser. It shows you how strong he is.”
Indeed: In March, a physical therapist compared Rainey's mobility to "a 70-year-old-amputee", and now he's just spent the last two months sprinting and twisting and throwing his through scorching heat on football fields in central Virigina, all to play quarterback for one more year.
It remains to be seen whether he'll succeed, but even the attempt and concept is pure insanity in the best, most logic-defying, heartwarming and mind-blowing way -- something that could only happen in sports, really. Check out the full piece at the New York Times.