CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Ryan Hummell didn’t hear the telltale pop. He didn’t feel the instant pain snake through his knee joint. He didn’t have the immediate and sobering realization that his ACL had torn.
(Photo courtesy of the Central Clarion Wildcats Football Boosters)
He had none of those things when he was injured during a 7-on-7 drill in late June.
In fact, the Clarion-Limestone senior and linebacker for the Central Clarion football team didn’t even know it was his left knee that was hurt.
“The trainer there said it was just a pulled hamstring,” Hummell said.
Hummell rested his leg for two weeks, but his concern grew when the pain and discomfort failed to improve.
Then a doctor gave him the shocking news that his ACL was torn.
Hummell, though, wasn’t going to let something like that derail his senior year of sports. Also a standout basketball player and javelin thrower on the track and field team at C-L — he was fourth at the PIAA championships in the event — he didn’t hesitate to make the decision to forgo surgery.
“Instantly,” Hummell said. “I made the decision instantly to play through it.”
Not only is Hummell playing through an injury that usually sidelines players for six months or longer, he’s playing very well.
Hummell leads the 3-0 Wildcats in tackles with 38. He also has an interception.
“He’s having a fantastic season,” said Central Clarion coach Dave Eggleton. “I just can’t express how impressed I am with the toughness he has. There’s a lot of guys who can’t do what he’s doing, and he’s not only out there, he’s playing at a high level and making big plays. He’s also a leader out there on the defensive side of the ball.”
Part of the reason why Hummell has been able to play through the injury — and not miss a beat — is because of his dedication to the weight room.
He’s a workout junkie and was in top physical condition before the injury. Through physical therapy, he’s been able to further build up the muscles around the knee to give support to the joint.
Hummell also wear a brace during games and practices.
“The trainers and everyone else at PT were saying that everything around my knee is very strong,” Hummell said. “I don’t even realize I have a torn ACL when I’m playing. I don’t even feel it.”
But Hummell admitted that early in the first game of the season against Brookville, it was on his mind. He was playing timidly.
Until he got an earful from Eggleton.
“I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I was really scared,” Hummell said. “Coach Egg pulled me aside and told me I was basically playing like a baby.”
That did the trick. Hummell decided he was going to play free and fast and not worry about the knee. He went on to make 12 tackles in the 42-7 victory.
Hummell is now lobbying to play offense. A running back, Hummell has only played a few downs on that side of the ball because Eggleton wants to protect him.
“He keeps pushing me to get him in more on offense,” Eggleton said. “I tell him, ‘Listen, Ryan. I have lots of guys on offense, but you’re the only one who can do what you do on defense.’ I can’t replicate what he does on defense.
“It’s driving him a little crazy,” Eggleton added. “He wants to be on the field. He told me today, ‘Coach, I’m a football player. Put me out there.’ I feel for him. I know what he’s feeling. Anyone who’s played wants to be out there as much as he can. But I think he’s the best defensive football player in the league and maybe the district and he’s too valuable there. It’s just hard to risk him on offense right now.”
Hummell is undeterred.
Just like he was unwilling to accept the fate of a torn ACL ending his season, he’s unwilling to give up his lobbying efforts to play offense.
“I bother him at practice and he just says no and walks away,” Hummell said, chuckling softly. “Eventually it will work. I’ve been at him since the first day of practice. I’m just really happy I can play.”