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Senior injuries create delicate situations for college hopefuls

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In light of the recent unfortunate news about St. Petersburg Catholic running back Ryan Green and his season-ending shoulder surgery, it brings to mind the question that always pops up when recruits suffer senior injuries.

Green, one of the top running backs in the state who is ranked No. 12 in the Sentinel’s Florida Top 100, is committed to Florida State. So now what happens to Green’s scholarship offer?

At Florida State, nothing happens.

“Coach [Jimbo] Fisher spoke to Ryan on the phone and told him not to worry about anything,” said Ryan’s father Vader Green. “He said Ryan’s still their guy and the injury is not going to affect him in any way.”

The conversation was a great relief to the Green family, since dad says Ryan could have played with the hurt shoulder and finished out his senior year. Some families are faced with that dilemma. They hide injuries from coaches just so it will not affect their status as a scholarship athlete in college.

“When the doctor suggested we go ahead and have the surgery, I called the school immediately and got coach [Lawrence] Dawsey [FSU receivers coach and Ryan’s recruiter] and Coach Fisher on the phone,”  Vader Green said. “They talked to the doctor and were comfortable with everything and said go ahead with the surgery. Coach Fisher handled it beautifully.”

Green also plays basketball and is on the track team at St. Pete Catholic.

“We wanted to go ahead and take care of it now and get this out of the way so it didn’t come up after he got to Florida State,” Vader added. “Everything went excellent [with the surgery] and we just want to get him back to being healthy. He should be back ready to go in three months”

It’s more commonplace for schools to stick with a committed student-athlete, but when players get hurt prior to making a commitment, all offers are subject to reversal. We don’t usually know the full story about how schools react in these cases. We have to rely solely on the student-athlete’s version since NCAA rules prohibit officials of member institutions from commenting on  prospective student-athletes.

Many of the players who have not yet committed are out of luck after an injury.

Being a big-timer helps, but it doesn’t always guarantee anything. Last year, Orlando Jones High offensive lineman Duaron Williams, a top 10 Central Florida Super60 member for 2012,  went down with an ACL tear in the first game of the season. There he was, 20-plus offers and a torn ACL, still uncommitted.

He was nervous. Several schools backed off right away. Missouri actually offered him after he got hurt.

“I was really worried,” said Williams, who eventually signed with Iowa State and is redshirting this season. “You always hear about an ACL tear and how guys have to struggle to get somewhere … but getting hurt showed me what schools out there really wanted me.”

Williams said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads called to reassure him that the Cyclones’ offer was still good.

“As soon as I got hurt coach Rhoads called and said, “I don’t care about the injury,” Williams said. “He just cared that I got healthy and wanted me to know that he was fully committed to me.”

Green and Williams and a handful of others across the country are the lucky ones. Meanwhile countless players who could have possibly gained a roster spot at some level, have to scramble to fulfill their college football dreams.

Since this column appeared in print (Sept. 11, 2012), it was learned that Oviedo's top-notch senior linebacker Tyler Foto appears to be in for such a dilemma. He has been declared out for the season with an ACL tear in his knee, and it remains to be seen how colleges will react to his injury.

Foto had to sit out last season after an altercation with a student from another school got him arrested and expelled from Oviedo High in the fall of 2011. (See Ovideo LB Tyler Foto anxious to get back on the field, May 1, 2012).

In a bit of a twisted coincidence, Foto's injury happened Friday night (Sept. 7), the same day on which he was arrested last year. The incident and missing his junior season did him no favors in the recruiting process, and Foto was hoping a big senior year would help him regain some recruiting attention.

He's a legitimate NCAA Division I-A-caliber linebacker who made a big mistake that looms as being even more significant now that he will miss the remainder of his high school games. So far, Foto has no known scholarship offers.

As for those players who do have offers and then end up suffering senior-season-ending injuries, a scholarship offer guarantees nothing. Perhaps personal-injury insurance policies are a good idea for college hopefuls, just in case.

No, it’s not fair, but there isn’t really much that can be done. The system relies on the scruples of coaches who might be willing to go the extra mile to help out a youngster in need of a break.

Scholarship numbers, however, are limited, and when it comes to million-dollar coaching contracts and job security, how many coaches are out there who are willing to burn a scholarship on a kid who might be able to play someday after his rehab? Not many.

Those who stand up are admirable and the real servants to the pursuit. Sure,  just because a kid is injured doesn’t mean he can’t go to college. But playing football is often the only means that a kid might have.

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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