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Cotey: Injuries take aim at football's most talented recruits

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Tue. October 9, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

Cotey: Injuries take aim at football's most talented recruits

TAMPA — We have seen the occasional injury.

The star quarterback who breaks a leg. The All-America running back who wrecks his knee. The hotshot recruit who cracks his elbow.

Never, in recent memory, have we seen them all, at once, seemingly every week.

But the 2012 high school football season may end up being remembered more for who didn’t play than for who has.

A torn labrum has taken out Tampa Bay’s best running back in St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green.

Multiple concussions have ended the career of Tampa Bay’s top offensive lineman in Plant’s Richy Klepal.

A broken hand has kept the area’s best athlete, Pasco’s Janarion Grant, off the field.

And Friday, a torn anterior cruciate ligament ended the senior season of the best defensive lineman in Tampa Bay, Florida commit Jordan Sherit.

All four players were among the top 15 in Tampa Bay ranked by the Tampa Bay Times in the preseason.

“Every day I pull up your website,” says Dixie Hollins coach Shannon Brooks, “it’s someone new.”

•••

Today, that someone new is Sherit, a relentless but affable star at Hillsborough High School who will be receiving his U.S. Army All-American jersey today.

Friday against Sickles, Sherit said he was chopped by a blocker just as a play was coming to an end.

He crumpled. There wasn’t pain, but he swears he heard a pop, which doctors confirmed Monday.

Sherit’s injury was as freakish and unavoidable as the others. These things happen in football. Just never with the frequency they are happening this season.

Players are bigger and stronger and faster and are colliding at full speed against other bigger and faster and stronger players, and the results often leave one of them grounded.

“It’s a rough game,” said Sherit, “but you can’t hold back.”

Many injuries occur from bad technique, though the aforementioned ones seem to be more a case of bad luck.

•••

Brooks knows all about that.

Although juniors Demondre Lambert and Kabriel Jackson don’t have the star power of the Grants, Greens and Sherits, they were running backs the first-year Rebels coach was counting on for 1,000 yards this season.

Both players were budding Division I-A backs, hoping to use this season as a launching pad to college scholarship offers.

While Green, Sherit and even Klepal will have their oral commitments honored by their respective colleges, Lambert and Jackson were hoping to land their first offers.

On the fourth play of the first game, Jackson went down after a helmet crashed into his right knee, tearing his ACL.

On the first play of the second half, Lambert was pushed out of bounds on a run, and landed wrong. Though his circumstances looked less severe than Jackson’s, his injury wasn’t — he tore his ACL, MCL and PCL.

“He’s got a long road ahead of him,” said Brooks, adding that it’s not bad news all around for Dixie — he’ll get a player back next week from a broken leg.

•••

East Lake’s Artavis Scott, another player ranked in our top 10, hasn’t been 100 percent since getting injured in the first game of the season.

Robert Davis, the Cincinnati commit and gifted Carrollwood Day running back who was in hot pursuit of Hillsborough County’s career rushing record, missed last week’s game with an injured knee and could be out again this week.

And Armwood lost cornerback Aaron Covington for the rest of the season, the result of a freak injury that left him with a broken arm.

The list goes on and on.

Some on the list, like Klepal, who was forced to give up football after a fifth concussion last month, will never play again, which is why Sherit said he refuses to look at his injury negatively.

His season is over, he says, but his career is just beginning.

It is with that attitude that the Terrier, just as highly regarded for his work ethic as he is for his on-the-field performances, will finish his senior season, rehabbing an injury that will keep him out of uniform but not off the field — “I plan on being the team’s biggest cheerleader” — until he is in Gainesville to begin his next chapter as a Florida Gator.

His message to other football players wearing braces or hobbling around while they heal?

He already sent it, via Twitter on Monday night:

“Never take anything for granted and play every play like it’s your last.”

More than ever, it seems, it could be.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com.

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