SEFFNER — For the second time since he awoke, Armwood senior Jermaine McKinney is about to embark on the 20-minute procedure that gives his longtime nickname — Juice — a whole new meaning.
Shortly after a monotonous bell signals the last hour of the school day, McKinney plops into the chair behind coach Sean Callahan’s desk, sets a plastic bag containing four syringes in front of him and slips a clear latex glove over his left hand.
“They showed me how to do this from Day 1,” he says.
He squeezes the contents of the first syringe — 0.9 percent sodium chloride — into a clear thin tube that slithers up to a blue port inserted near his left biceps. The other syringes — an antibiotic, more diluted sodium chloride and an anticoagulant — follow.
Around 10 p.m., McKinney will do it all over again, for the third and final time of the day. Every eight hours, this medicinal cocktail flushes any remnants of a nasty staph infection from his strapping body.
From a football perspective, it’s injecting hope back into his senior season.
McKinney, who hasn’t played in six weeks, hopes to have the port removed Friday, hours before the Hawks’ Class 4A playoff opener against Sickles.
“I’m gonna be geeked up Friday,” said McKinney, a free safety with a handful of Division I-A scholarship offers. “Somebody with this injury, they probably wouldn’t be rushing to come back. I’ve been rushing to come back. The nurses were like, ‘You could die from it,’ so that’s what was holding me down.”
In the first five games, McKinney was a 6-foot, 210-pound powder keg of fleetness and ferocity. An all-state linebacker with 119 tackles as a junior, he was flourishing in his new spot, shutting off running lanes and leveling any receiver courageous enough to try a crossing route.
In a 17-0 romp of Plant, he had six tackles, two sacks and a pass deflection. “You can ask any coach, they’re a different team when he’s out there,” Sickles coach Brian Turner said.
About a month ago, he was playing 21 — sort of a basketball free-for-all played on one hoop — with some friends near downtown Tampa when he was tripped up while going for the ball. The fall left a small abrasion, about the diameter of a quarter, on the bottom of his right wrist.
“It was a little cut but it was so tiny and minor that …I just wiped it off on my shirt,” he said.
When McKinney awoke the next day, a bump had formed, and the area had become sorer. Within about 30 hours, the bump had grown to gumdrop size, he estimates, and the pain had grown from nagging to unbearable.
“It looked like he got bit by a spider,” defensive coordinator Matt Thompson recalled. “He said it was broken, but compared to his other wrist, it was significant swelling. He was trying to play but he had to take himself out because he was in so much pain.”
McKinney went to one clinic, then the Florida Orthopaedic Institute. Blood cultures were taken, but McKinney says results weren’t immediately available. When he returned to FOI, he said a doctor told him to get to the hospital — immediately.
In a Hawks season rife with injuries, McKinney had sustained the most bizarre, and most dangerous.
On Oct. 25, he had surgery at Tampa General Hospital to drain the infection, which can be lethal if allowed to reach the bloodstream. Three days later, he had another one for more drainage and to ensure the infection hadn’t reached bone marrow. He hasn’t played football since.
“The doctor just said, ‘Thank God we went in there when we did,’ ” said McKinney’s stepmom, Laytecia.
On Tuesday, he returned to the practice field for the first time, albeit in shorts and helmet. The 15 or so pounds he dropped as a result of an initially meager appetite have been put back on with hearty intakes of bourbon chicken and macaroni and cheese, his favorites.
Until the port is removed, he says he’s not allowed to lift anything heavy.
Which, of course, excludes intensity, anticipation and excitement. Those are being lifted by the hour.
“Man, I’m amped up, ready for the game,” McKinney said Wednesday. “I wish today was Friday. I’m ready for it.”