Jordan Gallegos believes in miracles.
Jordan Gallegos believes in miracles.
The junior on the New Albany High School football team is certain he was part of one on a bright Saturday morning Aug. 29, the day that host New Albany beat Westerville North 33-28.
Gallegos, who had suffered a broken leg a year ago to the day, had an interception and ran back the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown -- all with a titanium plate helping to support the bones in his lower left leg.
The score put New Albany ahead 13-0, but it was more important than that. In the end zone was a return to form as well as proof of a promise kept.
"I didn't even know what to think," Gallegos said. "I was like 'I did it.' I can believe that anything is possible. At times when I broke my leg I thought I might have to stop playing football. (The kickoff return) was a miracle."
Opening day was a good day for Gallegos and parents Erin and Jim Saurborn, but the same can't be said for Aug. 29, 2008.
That day the Eagles throttled Westerville Central in the home opener 21-0. There was a little over a minute left in the game, and all New Albany had to do was run out the clock for a victory.
It was garbage time, but it was hardly meaningless.
Coach Mark Mueller, who plays almost exclusively seniors and juniors, started substituting sophomores into the game. It was Gallegos' opportunity to play some running back.
"There he goes," Gallegos' mother recalled telling her husband when their son entered the game. "There he goes."
In the huddle, the play-call was Gallegos on an inside run.
He took the handoff and he found space through the line of scrimmage, but as he passed the defensive line, a Central lineman disengaged from his block and dove.
Gallegos tried a spin move in the hole and as he did, the diving defender fell into his legs. Gallegos was tackled for a short gain. He tried to get up to go back to the huddle but couldn't.
"I picked up my leg and I shook my thigh," Gallegos said. "My ankle was kind of waving at me."
The trainers responded quickly.
The Saurborns sat and watched with the rest of the crowd. Their son stayed down. They couldn't see that his leg made an unnatural bend. The trainers called out Mueller. Then they called for the school administrators. The administrators took a look before walking back to the sidelines, necks craned, looking to the stands.
They pointed to Jim and Erin Saurborn and motioned for them to come down.
"We didn't know what was wrong," Erin Saurborn said. "We thought maybe he got his bell rung. Then he didn't get up. Once they pointed to us, I knew it was something bad."
The tackle had snapped Gallegos' fibia and tibia at 45-degree angles. He left the field on a stretcher with his leg stabilized. Paramedics took him to Children's hospital where the doctor advised he had two choices -- put a cast on the leg and let the bone heal naturally or have a surgery to install a titanium plate.
Mueller and assistant coach Pat Samanich were among those who stopped by that night to offer support as the family made the decision.
"I saw him (laying on the field) flopping around and knew it wasn't good," Mueller said.
Later that night the family decided to heed the advice of the doctor on duty, who leaned toward letting the injury heal naturally.
Gallegos would be okay, but his mom had had enough.
"I'm done with this watching him," Erin Saurborn said. "I can't watch this anymore. I can't be in the stands and see that. I can't be in the hospital."
Gallegos was put under anesthesia and the cast set. He woke up to a leg that was fully encased from foot to hip. Doctors said he could be in the cast until December.
A few days later a follow up visit with Dr. Kevin Klingle, who was at the field the night of the injury, made it clear that surgery could significantly reduce the recovery time. A week after the break, Gallegos went under the knife.
By the last two games of New Albany's season, Gallegos was able to run. The hardest part was loosening an ankle that a walking boot held straight for hours at a time.
He played for the baseball team in the spring and eyed the season opener against Westerville North for his return to football.
"The funny thing was I told my parents to show you that I'm going to be all right, I'm going to take (a kickoff) back to the house," Gallegos said.
Mom still wasn't sure. She was okay with her son on the diamond. She got over seeing him slide into bases.
But football was a different story.
"My husband said we have to let him decide what he wants," Erin Saurborn said. "I was really apprehensive until he went up to football camp at Mount Union."
There, a rehabbed Gallegos, saw that his time in the 40-yard dash was coming close to what it had been before the injury. He left camp confident that his leg had bounced back.
When jerseys were assigned, teammates tried to persuade Gallegos against using No. 22 again. That jersey number was cursed.
Gallegos took that number and then broke his leg. The year before that, Kevin Smith, after rushing for more than 1,100 yards as a junior, had his senior season end with a knee injury before the opener.
But Gallegos wasn't hearing it.
"There are so many people that play football, and they never get hurt," he said. "I was not going to let this take me down."