Six months after a gruesome injury, Belle Vernon running back and linebacker Ryan Abbott is ready to get back into the game.
But he needs to find a place to play.
Abbott was hoping to be part of the Leopards’ rushing attack that had to replace graduated senior and 1,700-yard rusher Mason Pascoe in training camp last August, when a non-contact injury dashed those dreams in a heartbeat.
“We were scrimmaging, the 1s and 2s offense and the 1s and 2s defense,” Abbott said. “There was a run play to the right, right by the goal line. I was following my blocker and then I saw a hole behind me, so I went to cut real hard, almost turn around and my spike got caught in the turn. My knee, everything just kind of tore in half. It happened so fast.”
Abbott tore his ACL, lateral and medial menisci in his right leg. In an instant, his senior season — and likely his football career — was over.
“That’s the first thing that I was sitting on the ground in pain saying,” Abbott said. “It’s over. I’m never playing football again.”
After his fears were confirmed, Abbott had surgery on his knee, a two and a half hour procedure on Aug. 30. As his teammates worked their way through the football season, Abbott couldn’t even walk without assistance.
“I was on crutches, from Aug. 30 to Oct. 10. I was non-weight-bearing, completely on crutches.”
During that part of his recovery, without the ability to do any real exercises, things got tough mentally.
“It got really tedious,” Abbott said. “I was just thinking, ‘This is never going to end. It’s never going to end.’ Whenever I went back on Oct. 10 for my appointment, we wanted to ditch the crutches, get walking and start doing a little more. It gave me a little a more hope and from then, it just kind of took off.”
So did things for the Leopards, who finished 10-2, with just a pair of losses to Thomas Jefferson, the second of which came in the WPIAL championship game.
“It was really hard to watch, but at the same time, it was really awesome to watch my teammates go and do what they did,” Abbott said. “I always kept a smile on my face and tried to be the most positive guy that I could for them.”
After that title game loss to TJ, the idea of playing again came to the forefront of Abbott’s mind.
“We didn’t meet our goal of winning the WPIAL championship and I didn’t get to be a part of it like I wanted to,” Abbott said. “I was just thinking that I want to put pads on again and do what I do.”
Six months after his knee was shredded, Abbott has been cleared to resume playing football.
🚨Proud to make this announcement. It’s go time🖤🤞🏽 pic.twitter.com/Yc9SY5U8G9
— Ryan Abbott (@RyanAbbott_6) February 11, 2020
But he needs a place to play. Abbott will graduate from Belle Vernon this spring. He was having some informal contact with recruiters from area Division II and III schools before his injury, but without a senior season to go on, and getting cleared after most schools have signed their classes, it’s not going to be easy to find a place to play.
But given everything that he’s already gone through, that’s not going to keep Abbott from working toward accomplishing that goal.
“Any school that reaches out to me, or gives me a shot, I would look at it with an open mind, because when it comes down to it, no matter where I go, I just want to be able to play again,” he said.
The driving factor in his motivation at this point is to finally get a payoff for the hard work he’s put into the game before and after his injury.
“It was all the hard work I put in from the offseason months from a couple of days after my junior year ended,” he said. “All the hours of work all the way up until camp, just to have it stripped from you, it was just fuel to the fire to come back and be even better than I potentially could have been.”