Monday, February 23, 2009

Player Blog: Ian Estrada "On The Comeback, Again"

Battling back from a season ending injury is tough. But coming back from multiple season ending injuries? That kind of heart and desire takes a special person to fight through the mental and physical pain to battle back with no guarantee that you won’t get seriously injured again.

Right now, one of your ‘Cats is in the midst of that battle and I asked him to share his story about his comeback (again) to finish his playing career at Linfield next season. Defensive lineman Ian Estrada (Jr. Kailua, Hawaii) is a standout young man and should be an impact player for the ‘Cats next season on the defensive line, scars and all.


Being all the way from Hawaii, it's not as easy for my family to come up and watch Linfield play on Saturdays, so they have to rely on the internet broadcasts and news articles to hear about the games. Some of my family tries to come up once a year to watch a game, but for reasons I am going to explain they're always too late. Next season my mom plans to come as early as possible because the past three seasons have ended much sooner for me than I'd ever wanted or expected.

So just to get them out of the way, here are a few reasons for having short season: my sophomore year I tore my right ACL the last day of fall camp during the afternoon scrimmage, junior was a little longer and I made it to the second game of the year against Hardin-Simmons where right before the half I sprained my right AC joint. I didn't think it was that bad so I decided to go back in the second half and left the game with two badly sprained AC joints that severely affect Defensive Tackle play, with all the striking and use of the shoulders, it pretty much ended any hopes for a successful season. Then there was the broken hand during spring ball that kept me from spring training and practices. Finally, this past season I tore my left ACL in the third game against Menlo. So to sum it all up I've had three surgeries in the last three years, probably over $100,000 in medical bills, thank God for insurance, and a secondary residence in the Athletic Treatment Center.

When VP (Dr. Van Patten) did the standard knee ligament check on me after being helped off the field against Menlo, he uttered a word that I wouldn't use in front of my mom, and I knew it was all over. I seriously thought I would never play football again. The tears started to form and all the images of crutches, limping, surgery, painful rehab, and more started to run through my head.

I’m not going to lie and say knee surgery isn’t that bad, because it is. They don’t just give you vicodin for the pain, they straight up shoot morphine into your knee. I decided to stay awake for some of the surgery this second time, and it sounded like the doctors were constructing a house on the other side of the curtain that blocked my lower half. Sawing, drilling, and hammering is what I heard, and a brand new ACL made from my patellar tendon was the result. Over the roughly 5 or 6 month rehab period, you painfully try to decrease swelling, rebuild muscle in a leg that feels like jello, regain full range of motion, and learn how to walk and run again.

I know that there are far more worse things that happen to other people in the world, but this is my life and my trial. Why me? Why my other ACL? I could understand if my ACL that had already torn once snapped again, but why the other one? I never questioned God's reason for letting it happen, I was just in absolute confusion as to what I was going to learn from this second ACL tear. I told God, "I've already been through this trial, and I thought I passed. Why do I have to do it again?"

In all honesty, I don't know the answer to that question still. But what I do know is that a chance to play Linfield football again is on the minds of hundreds of former Wildcats, and I will not live the rest of my life in regret and thinking what could've been. The concept of Linfield football is almost "ineffable", which means it cannot or should not be expressed in spoken words, its almost sacred. If playing another season of Linfield football means I get to play for guys like Coach Smith, Vaughan, and Thorson, and be on the field with players like Jay Jack, Nish, and T Chuck, then by all means I will do WHATEVER IT TAKES. I have the assumption that if I were at any other program I would've hung up the pads already, but it's not even about me anymore. I am consumed in this Linfield family and it doesn't want to let me leave. I really owe Jaymin Jackson a lot for the constant encouragement to play again. Jaymin would always say, "Who am I gonna run Flop Canes with next year?" Also the example set by "Old Man Rivers" Scott Olsen, who I understand now, just couldn't move on with his life until he gave Linfield everything he had, meaning one last season.

Will my knee hurt throughout the season? Yes. Am I going to have arthritis waiting for me in the future? Most likely. Full knee replacements? Very Possible. However, these things are really hard to focus on when all I can think about is running out of that tunnel, rushing that QB, and chanting "Linfield Wildcats" with my teammates after a hard fought game.

Lots of people told me I was crazy to think about playing again, and suggested I rethink my decision of coming back. Yes, to the logical person in their right mind would probably listen to their body and say, "hey man, I'm done. My body is just not made to play this sport." However, I refuse to do that, and I will listen to God who has given me more love and passion for this team than I have ever had.

-Ian Estrada (Class of 2010)

-Photo courtesy of Linfield S.I.D. Kelly Bird

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