Football Player ‘Saw’ Way to Score

Josh Horton, Reporter

Logan Brace is more than just wide receiver Paul Brace’s younger brother: he is his most reliable doctor.

Instead of the small medical saw trained doctors use to cut off a cast, Logan, a high school freshman at the time, went with a handsaw.

The operating room did not resemble something you would see in Grey’s Anatomy or House but more like something on Home Improvement.

There was no fancy medical chair or bed. There were no doctors, at least not one who completed the rigorous training of medical school.

Instead the room was a garage where the family keeps tools needed to fix tractors.

There was nothing wrong with the dusty old John Deere that day, but everything was wrong with the older Brace’s right leg. So the brothers decided it was time for the midnight blue cast to come off, even if it was against their parents’ wish.

“It’s funny, they looked at me and said, ‘Don’t even think about it,’” the younger Brace said. “But, Paul told me to cut it off, so I did.”

His brother started sawing at the top, carefully working his way all the way down to the heel and over an hour later the athlete slid the cast off of his leg with just one wiggle.

“I just remember not being able to stop shaking, I was so nervous,” he said. “I had a saw in my hand and it was pretty much touching his leg.”

That happened on a Sunday night, and the next day Brace was walking through plays at practice. By kickoff on Saturday afternoon at Mountaineer Stadium, he was running.

“When I slid the cast off I was a little nervous, because I was having trouble walking with how stiff my leg was,” Brace said. “I knew I needed to rehab really hard so I could get back out on the field.

He had some help from family friend and chiropractor Vince Argenio. Brace used Argenio’s indoor swimming pool in Pittston every day running, high stepping and performing squats.

After six days of rehab, he scored the first touchdown of the game. On second down from the 16-yard line Dallas quarterback Ryan Zapaticky hit Brace with a short pass. Brace then shook off two defenders and dove for the pylon with an outstretched hand for the touchdown.

“Nobody even knew if I was going to play or not. So everyone was surprised to see me out there and to score the first touchdown. It set the tone for the game and got the crowd and defense pretty pumped.”

Then the waiting game began. Would all the big time Division I programs that contacted him before his injury call back?

The answer was no.

Every time the phone rang he was praying it was Nebraska, Rutgers, or any of the other schools that had thought he was a Division I talent. The last time Brace had spoken to the schools was immediately after his first game of his senior season in which he had over 100 yards receiving, one touchdown on offense, and an interception on defense all in the first half for the Dallas Mountaineers.

It was there the conversations ended.

“Just to see all that flash before my eyes was heartbreaking,” a visibly distraught Brace said. “I didn’t think there was anything big to it.  It was just a freak accident. I just tackled a guy and landed on my foot and my teammates came over to look at it and tried pulling me up. I couldn’t step on it and I was like oh no, this is bad. They kept saying, ‘Brace get up!’”

The only coach to hear the screaming was Mark Ross.

Ross sent Brace an e-mail telling him he could make history by taking the field with the rest of the inaugural football roster at Misericordia.

“I was getting calls from schools that were bigger and had more established programs than Misericordia,” Brace said. “He would always ask me how I was and how I was playing and stuff like that, which I thought was cool. It just showed me how much he cared.”

Unlike Rutgers and Nebraska, Misericordia had nothing to lose by taking a chance on Brace. Roster spots weren’t exactly at a premium and the more bodies the Cougars had, the better.

Brace finally made his decision in late May, and although he was heartbroken that he wasn’t going to be a Scarlett Knight or a Cornhusker, he felt there is a reason he ended up a Cougar.

“My girlfriend goes here. My family has owned a family farm for eight generations and I didn’t want to leave them,” Brace said. “If I went to Nebraska they would never see me play a game. I just wanted to stay around here and it will work out in the end.

From the moment he stepped on campus he knew he and the team had their work cutout for them. The only thing he didn’t know was just how tough it would be.

After spending his entire football career knowing the guys he was lining up with at the line of scrimmage, he showed up for the first day of training camp knowing just two guys, and neither of them are on the team anymore.

Brace spent his summer throwing three times a week with wide receiver Mike Barber and quarterback Chris Washo.

“I would come up three days a week or so to meet with Chris and Mike and we would just throw,” Brace said. “We didn’t know what kind of offense we were going to run, we didn’t know who the other guys on the team were, but we wanted to get a head start and unfortunately they left the team.”

The season was tough for Brace both mentally and physically as the team failed to win a game and he again went down with an injury, ending his season.

It was again an unfortunate circumstance, but this time it happened on the very last play of practice on Oct. 19 and not during a game.

“I was running one of my routes and I rolled my ankle and I guess I had all of my weight on it and it wasn’t good.”

He missed the remaining three games but expects to be on the field for next season‘s opener.

Brace isn’t used to losing. Other than going 2-8 as a freshman at Dallas High School, he has never experienced a losing season until the Cougars went 0-10 in their inaugural season.

“If I lost at Dallas, there wouldn’t be a word spoken in the locker room, you could here a pin drop,” Brace said. “We just said that was enough and we weren’t losing ever again. Once you have that mind set you just go forward and that’s what we have to do here.”

Everyone has to buy in, he said. He questioned whether or not the hard work was worth it just to go 0-10, but he never considered quitting.

“Everybody is questioning it, just because we are losing. Nobody likes to lose, nobody talks about the loser, nobody wanted to be 0-10,” Brace said. “Everyone knows how it feels.  Hopefully next year everyone will hit the weight room and be stronger and faster. We need to be quicker and more aggressive.”

If one were to paint a picture of the type of player Misericordia needs to develop a new program, it should be strikingly similar to Brace, the once highly touted Division-I wide receiver who suffered two injuries, experienced a 0-10 season—and he got back up.

“If there is one thing the family business has taught me, it’s don’t give up when things get tough,” Brace said. “I just do my best to carry it out onto the football field.”

 

Inquiry By Numbers:

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program the most injuries occur in the game of basketball, not football.

Below is the breakdown of student athlete injuries by sport in the 2001:

Basketball (680,307), Football (413,620), Baseball (170,902), Soccer (163,003), Softball (118,354), Gymnastics (99,722), Hockey (63,945), Volleyball (55,860), Track & Field (15,113)

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research Twentieth Annual Report, basketball is the most deadly sport among high school athletes, not football.

From 1982-2002 the total numbers of direct or indirect fatalities among high school athletes:

Basketball (88), Track & Field (47), Soccer (31), Football (22), Cheerleading (21), Baseball 17, Wrestling (16), Cross Country (14)

Source: SportsSafety.org.