Down, but not out: Senior offensive lineman redefines role on team after injury

Danica Mendes

Players stare across the line at each other waiting for the ball to be hiked. Beads of sweat run down their faces as the tension builds with each word the quarterback yells. The ball sails from the center’s hands into the quarterback’s and the play begins. Each offensive lineman blocks the man across from him. Pushing, protecting the quarterback and the running back coming around the end. But plays, like life, don’t always go as expected. A defensive players peels off his man and slams into the back of one of the offensive lineman’s knees. Pain. Pain, not yardage is gained on this play.

“I felt the hit, and my knee tear, I could tell that something wasn’t right,” offensive lineman senior Cecil Banks said. ”They took me to the sideline and they told me it was my MCL, but when I went in to get my MRI they told me it was my ACL.”

Even with a season ending injury Cecil remains upbeat and hopes the rest of the season goes well despite the fact that he won’t be out there protecting the quarterback on each snap.

“It’s every athlete’s worst nightmare to hear about their season being over especially during their senior year,” Cecil said. “That really hurt me, but I have to keep my head up high to support my team and hope for the best.”

The emotional distress may be more difficult to deal with than the physical pain of rehabilitation.

“[Immediately following the injury] I was upset because I didn’t want to go out of the game,” Cecil said. “I felt like I would let my team down if I did. It hurt a lot not just physically, but emotionally too because I didn’t want to leave the field with my brothers on it.”

Cecil has already accepted his injury and is looking forward, focusing on how he can still be an asset to the team.

“I still travel with the team because I know I can still help by inspire my teammates,” Cecil said. “I can coach from the sidelines, and right now, that’s all I can do for the younger guys. I can motivate them and act as a mentor.”

Cecil reflects positively through his younger players and give them great advice that’ll help them learn a lot and support them during practices, games, or even outside of football.

“Cecil’s role is helping me on the sideline as far as getting kids coached up, watching the offense and how we’re doing, and how the defense is doing to help us prepare,” offensive line coach, Robert Jesurun said. ”He’s kind of a player-coach. He can find stuff real quick and he can find players quickly and get them on the bench.”

Coach Jesurun recognizes that, though Cecil has stepped into a new role easily to help the team, there is still physical and emotional pain that has Cecil will have to deal with.

“Cecil’s handling his injury better than I am,” Jesurun said. “I probably cried at least three times, but Cecil’s not letting it stop him emotionally. Cecil has been very positive. I’ve seen other kids that are distraught and just kind of distance themselves from the team when they have a season ending injury because they don’t think that there’s anything that they can do for the team.Cecil certainly doesn’t feel that way. He sees this as an opportunity to help his team in a different way other than actually being out on the field and playing.”

As a senior on the team, Cecil has matured over the past four years and can help lead the younger guys down the right path. Cecil admits he struggled for awhile to find the right path off the field, but with the help of his teachers and his church he feels like he’s in a good place now.

“My teachers, my parents, my church. Those are the people that helped me mature over the years,” Cecil said. “There’s things I did my freshman year that I wouldn’t do now. I do a lot of things differently now I would’ve done earlier in my life.”

Cecil’s teachers have also recognized his maturity through this by watching him grow from freshmen to senior year. They’ve helped lead Cecil to the right path that help set him up for success.

“As a freshman Cecil was playful and goofy,” photography teacher John Burrows said. “[Cecil] knew what direction he wanted to go in, but he didn’t know how to get there. Now as a senior he has completed his path that he has planned out. However, Cecil’s still goofy and a lovable guy, but he’s definitely grown up since freshman year.”

The people surrounding Cecil have seen him mature academically and socially, and this situation demonstrates that he has matured emotionally as well by staying optimistic about his injury.

“Cecil is very positive and upbeat about his injury,” Burrows said. “Cecil was obviously disappointed, but it didn’t stop him from being who is. He didn’t wallow in it, and he moved on. He still sees that there’s other goals out there for him.”

Cecil’s teammates agree with his teachers that he has grown maturelly and has improved by helping out the coaches by becoming the leader role on the team. Acting as a leader will help the team flourish even though he won’t be there physically playing on the team.

“Cecil played an important role on the team,” senior center Jarod Spivey said. “We’re missing someone big on the team it can affect us in a big way, but as long as he keeps helping us out and acting like the leader he is we should be okay.”

The entire team has felt the impact of Cecil’s injury with his coaches recognizing that the team must banned together to succeed as they move forward.

“I think the whole team feels horrible because Cecil was playing so well and it’s his senior year,” Jesurun said. “It’s an emotional injury to the coaches and the players and I know it’s a physical and emotional injury for Cecil. Right now we have to gather around and go on; that’s all we can do. He’s not going to play anymore and we know that and we just have to deal with the reality of it.”