Stoked to play | SteamboatToday.com

Stoked to play

Steamboat senior returns to field after ACL injury in spring

Luke Graham

— It’s not in Kevin Stokes’ upbeat personality to let anything get him down.

His smile and presence permeate a room.

Toward the end of the 2007 football season, those traits – and that he was becoming one heck of a linebacker – filled the huddle. He was ready for a big senior season, but Stokes quickly was subject to the unfortunate side of athletics.

Early in the spring lacrosse season, Stokes was running toward midfield when his cleat dug into the turf. With his left foot stuck, Stokes’ body and leg went one way, and his foot went the other.

While the initial diagnosis wasn’t too serious, Stokes found out weeks later that he had torn his ACL.

“I was told around four months of recovery by the doctor,” Stokes said. “It was six months to a year of complete recovery by the physical therapist.”

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Stokes got right to recovery. Deep tissue massage helped the swelling, and when he finally had full range of motion, Stokes started training for his senior year.

Although he remained upbeat, he said, as each game of his senior season passed, it became tougher to bear.

It all came to a head last week in Steamboat’s 39-14 loss against Palisade.

The positive was Stokes put on pads and played kickoff coverage for the first time this year. The negative was obvious.

“The beginning of the season wasn’t bad, but with each game that went by, it got more and more painful to watch,” Stokes said. “Palisade, with us actually losing, was the worst. That was definitely the low point. Being on the field was great. It was really great to go out and hit somebody. But it was just frustrating because the couple kickoffs we got were just not enough to release all the rage I had built up.”

Now that Stokes has a few plays of physical contact under his belt, the Steamboat coaches expect to integrate him into the offense as the season progresses.

Depending on how he reacts and how well he can get back into shape, Stokes should rotate in and out of Friday’s game at Rifle. Stokes will have every opportunity to move back into the starting lineup.

“The last five games, we hope to integrate him in as much as possible,” Steamboat defensive coordinator Lonn Clementson said. “He adds depth. He makes us better whether he’s on the field or pushing to get on the field.”

Although the coaches told Stokes he favors his left knee, Clementson said Stokes’ value can’t be measured solely in how he performs on the field.

Clementson brings up Stokes’ personality and the way he approaches the game.

“Obviously, we’re excited to have him back,” Clementson said. “His leadership is by example, and he’s a great example.”

Stokes said he tries not to think about his knee too much. Although he wears a brace on the knee, he said he doesn’t anticipate it hampering him on the field.

And that only can be a good thing for Steamboat.

“I’m hoping to bring the aggression to the defense a little more,” Stokes said. “We’ve been good. In games, we’ve had some intensity. Unfortunately in practices, it hasn’t been the same intensity. I’m hoping to bring that undying will to play football.”