It was a simple football play. A quarterback scrambling from oncoming rushers is then tackled. Only this time, for former premier quarterback prospect, Jacob Rainey, it wasn’t as simple as being tackled and then getting up for the next play.
When Jacob had tried to evade the oncoming tacklers, his leg went the wrong way. The tackle sent in in another direction and a loud “pop” echoed on the field. The popliteal arteary in Jacob’s right leg ruptured and cut off all circulation to his lower leg. The team’s athletic trainer recalls that the young man’s screams of pain still haunt him almost a year later.
The 17-year-old athlete had to have his right leg amputated under a week later.
That was December 2011.
The typical recovery time frame for amputees adjusting to life without a limb is over one year. Learning to walk again, finding new exercises, and learning to trust the new prosthetic limb take time. Jacob Rainey didn’t have a year to wait, he had his senior football season coming up.
Doctors suggested Jacob channel his competitive energy into the Paralympics and forget football.
“I’d rather play football. It’s just my mentality. When people tell me I can’t do something, the stubbornness I have just pushes me forward.”
Jacob worked with a strength coach relentlessly, competing to regain the movements he once found so natural. Jacob learned to walk, run, and eventually plant and throw a spiral again. For a right-handed quarterback, the right leg is crucial to a dropback and driving forward to throw a pass.
Jacob was never alone in the journey. Hundreds of hand-written letters poured in, encouraging Jacob on his rehab process, including ones from University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, and NFL stars Tim Tebow and Clay Matthews.
Last Friday night, September 7, Jacob Rainey once again stood on the football field where he lost his leg. Head Coach Clint Alexander started the game with Jacob under center and the young man led his teammates down the field on the game’s opening drive.
Instead of wallowing in “what ifs” and lost opportunities, Jacob focused solely on returning to the field. He looked at it as a challenge to overcome. And overcome he did. Keep competing Jacob.
For more on Jacob Rainey’s remarkable journey back, check out this phenomenal article from the New York Times.