Published in The News-Herald
August 18, 2018
Sam Leygraaf had every reason to be angry, or at the very least sullen.
It was Kenston’s Photo Day. Everyone was all smiles, with the anticipation of the upcoming season providing the morning adrenaline.
Even Leygraaf smiled.
And he had every reason not to.
Just a few days had passed since the Bombers’ senior starting linebacker dropped back in a non-contact drill, planted his foot and pivoted on the turf.
His ACL snapped.
His senior year was over before it even began.
And yet, here was Leygraaf smiling, counting his blessings.
“It’s something that you don’t want anyone to experience,” Leygraaf said. “It’s just bad luck. Nothing I can do to change it. I’m just going to do everything I can to help these guys and get to the playoffs.”
The hard part of a season-ending injury, especially like the one Leygraaf sustained, is the misconception that all the hard work in the offseason was for nothing.
All those early mornings getting out of bed in the summer to trudge into the weight room to pump iron while most of the town is still asleep were all for naught, right?
Character, they say, is doing the right thing when no one else is watching. Leygraaf put in the time. He dedicated himself to the process and his teammates.
That is why Leygraaf could smile on this given day.
The memory is still fresh, unfortunately.
“It was just out of the blue,” he said. “I planted my foot and it gave out. I hopped up and down. That’s the first injury I’ve ever had.”
And it ended his high school career.
“I knew it. I felt it,” he said. “I knew right then and there that my season was over.”
The injury provided a fork in the road for Leygraaf. His options — step away from the team because he could no longer play and focus on his academics, or be the best teammate he could be.
He chose Option No. 2.
That’s what character does.
“I hope I can help coach these guys,” he said, “to coach them up and be the best player, the best teammate, I can be.”
Kenston opens the season on Aug. 24 against Streetsboro. Leygraaf will be wearing his Kenston jersey — he just won’t have the pads on to go with it.
But he’ll very much be in the game, watching the Streetsboro offense from the sidelines and letting his teammates — including the one who will replace him in the starting lineup — know what he is seeing from afar.
He’ll be the youngest coach on the staff.
Some would suggest that Leygraaf was right when he said his senior season was over.
In truth, it isn’t over.
The unfortunate ACL tear just means that his role on the team changed.
If Kenston goes on to win a Western Reserve Conference championship and gets into the Division III, Region 9 playoffs, Sam Leygraaf will be a big reason why.
And the cup of success will taste just as sweet because of what he invested in the process long before he tore that ligament in his knee.