It was my first practice for the 1994 wrestling season. Even after the long football schedule, I felt at home down in the wrestling room. The familiar scent of stale sweat filled my nostrils as I began to practice. I had been drilling for thirty minutes when “POP” my knee buckled; I dropped to the ground writhing in pain. My knee was locked and my teammates had to carry me off of the mat. Later that night I had knee surgery and it appeared as if I would never wrestle again.
The events of that particular winter day eventually played a role in shaping me as a person. It was this incident and subsequent rehabilitation that helped me develop several of my best characteristics including commitment, responsibility, and perseverance. In my naive thinking, surgery was an athletic badge of honor to be displayed on one’s knees with corrugated streaks of purplish flesh. Little did I realize what it takes to recover. My father had orthoscopic surgery twice, and both times he was walking within a day and cycling within a week. I assumed my recovery time would be similar to his. Never in my life have I been so wrong. Due to the nature of the injury, the doctor elected to stitch my cartilage back together. Because of the intricacy of the operation, I was restricted to non-weight bearing activities for three weeks. If I wished to return to wrestling, the doctor stated that I would have to demonstrate a muscle strength in my injured knee equal to ninety percent of my good one. When informed of this requirement, I could barely bend my leg twenty degrees nor use it to lift a ten-pound weight.
One week after surgery and with the aid of crutches, I nervously entered the rehabilitation clinic. The physical therapist gingerly measured my quadricep and noted that I had lost an inch of muscle. For the first time in my life when I flexed my leg, there was no visual confirmation.
In order to meet my self-imposed goal of recovering in eight weeks, my therapist adamantly required that I dedicate myself completely to the rehabilitation process and learn to deal with pain. Not really comprehending what he was saying, I asked him where I should begin. Before the session was over, I understood him. My leg was on fire and I felt as if I had been through a battle. Exhausted, I could only think about returning to home and going to sleep.
Determined to heal as soon as possible, I immediately started an intensive physical therapy routine. For eight weeks my weekly regimen consisted of visiting the therapist for three ninety-minute sessions of torture and, during the remaining four days, working on my own for two hours each evening.
Gradually, my knee began to improve. This was a very frustrating period for me because up to this point most accomplishments had come relatively easily. For the first time in my life, I had to exert myself for something I desired. Towards the end of my rehabilitation, the workouts became easier but were still painful.
Finally, the day arrived to determine if I had gained back my muscle strength.
I completed the Cybex II tests and anxiously awaited for the results. My therapist shot me a glance and mumbled, “Kevin, good thing 89.8 rounds up to
90.” He congratulated me and emphasized that it was hard work and determination that had helped earn my score. Exactly eight weeks after surgery, I returned to practice and went on to complete the 1994 wrestling season.
Today the qualities of commitment, responsibility, and perseverance remain with me. It was continued commitment to the Boy Scouts of America that allowed me to earn the award of Eagle Scout in December, 1996. It was responsibility that enabled me to balance my extracurricular activities with school while maintaining good grades. And it was perseverance that helped me to complete preseason football workouts which began on cold January mornings and concluded with double-days in the August heat. Not only do I intend to bring these same qualities to Loyola Marymount University if accepted, but I also look forward to the new experiences that will develop within me the traits and qualities needed to fulfill the Jesuit motto, “a man for others.”