I was sad to read that former Huskies linebacker Donald Butler had been taken off the field on a stretcher Tuesday, and became downright heartbroken yesterday afternoon when I saw the bottom-of-the-screen crawl that he has torn his Achilles tendon and would miss the season.
Butler was the Sand Diego Chargers’ third-round pick this spring and was expected to contribute. Fortunately for him, he had signed a four or five-year contract with a signing bonus of $800,000. Not bad.
I was at the Hawk’s Nest before the Mariners game last night when I saw the news and Stacy and I got to talking about it — about how fickle these injuries can be. There is no way that Butler wasn’t in the shape of his life when he went into his first NFL camp. The kid has been ripped his entire adult life, has a great attitude and work ethic, and had to have been ready. Then to learn he had simply planted his foot and burst out of it and RIP! How unlucky!
Then there’s the fact that an Achilles tear can be a career-changing injury. You’re 22 years old and you planned that this would be your livelihood, your life. And now you’re on a stretcher. Not to mention the physical pain and agony of tearing your Achilles tendon! Isn’t this the tendon that can snap all the way up your calf to underneath the back of your knee?! I can’t imagine the pain. But shooting through that pain has to be the thought of your future — both immediate and long term. Will I spend the next 10 months in a physical therapist’s presence? Will I have surgery? Will I be able to play the way I always have? Will they want me?
I can’t even imagine the physical agony much less the mental anguish.
Granted, athletes come back from injury all the time. While we (I) spend so many words about their exorbitant contracts, how often do we think of that?
These thoughts didn’t pop into my head when Steelers tackle Willie Colon went down with the same injury. Maybe it’s because he is a veteran, he has won a Super Bowl, he has more money that I’ll ever sniff. But, that isn’t why I’m having these thoughts.
I’m having these thoughts because, to me, Donald Butler is the kid in the Conibear Shellhouse in the late summer 2006. He’s the kid with the great big smile who told me he probably didn’t do as much lifting and working out as he should have that summer — because he went to Europe for the first time on a school-sponsored trip. He is the kid that endured consistent losing with personal grace. I never met his parents, or had any kind of personal relationship with Butler, but I was always proud of him.
While I hope that injury heals up better than new and he gets back to playing football, I really just hope Donald Butler remains that intellectually-curious, bright, graceful, hard-working, pleasant young man I remember. If he does, I have no doubt he will be fine.