A typically grey Sunday afternoon in early May is normally the perfect kind of day for a game of football. Not too hot, and typically past all the rain and wind of early spring. These are the type of days summer ball is supposed to be played on!
It’s the beginning of the 2nd quarter, in only the 3rd game of the season but a game which may have huge importance come the end of season with regards to relegation.
Down 14-6 but with all the hope that they can come away with the Win! A simple toss play to the right is called, and the starting Running Back gets the ball and heads out right. The Linebacker closes the gap and as the RB tries to plant his foot and make a cut, his right knee gives way and he goes down clutching it.
The above sounds like the plot line to a typical high school football movie but alas this was the situation facing me on the 12th May 2019!
My name is Chris Hobbs. I’m a 31 year old running back currently playing for the Berkshire Renegades, and I’ve been asked by Gridiron Hub to share with you all my story and journey through suffering a knee injury and the subsequent surgery and rehabilitation to return to the playing field.
Many of you out there may already know me, but for those who don’t, here’s a bit about me.
I started playing football in 2004 for the Farnham Knights youth side. Under the tutelage of Coach Simon Srour (Now coaching with Solent Thrashers), I played for 2 seasons on the squad with some of Britball’s well-known names, QB Joe Thompson, RB Dan Conroy to name a couple. I was part of the 2007 youth bowl final squad, the year before the Knights won it!
I spent my first few years playing as a Wide Receiver, with a moonlight at QB occasionally but with no real success.
I went to Coventry University in 2006 and began playing ball for Warwick Wolves University side. This pre dates BUCS and joint university teams were permitted, before anyone wonders how. It was at my first Wolves training session where I was dubbed “Teflon”, a name which ironically has stuck with me and most people in Britball know me as Tef. I played WR in the slot for Warwick for 2 seasons, before a brief spell at QB again ended up with me playing RB. Apparently I had an ability to run and hit harder than my body size would suggest.
In 2009 the BUAFL rules changed and joint university teams were no longer permitted, so myself and 2 friends went to Coventry Students Union and established the Coventry University Jets. Who, if you follow uni ball, you will know they have just been promoted to the top tier premier league! The CU Jets are something im incredibly proud of to have set up and even more proud of the guys and girls who have taken our fledgling team to the top of their game!
I played 1 season with the CU Jets as an RB.
During the summer I stayed at home, playing Prem ball with the Knights. I was coached under Coach Steve Rains & Ian Ellis in my years there and alongside some Britball greats – Tango, DC, Kingsley and Gridiron Hub’s own Steve Price to name just a few. I played mostly WR but had my first dose of Prem Running back vs the London Blitz. Something I’ll never forget!
When the Injuries Started…
In 2009-2010 I was lucky enough to live in Toulouse, France and I tried out for Les Ours de Toulouse, a French D1 side. I played nearly a whole season before suffering my 1st real injury – a broken left arm. It was my real first experience of dealing with injury and the frustration that comes with it. Something I’ll learn to rely on in the coming years.
I played my final season with the Farnham Knights in 2010, which again was cut short due to an injury, courtesy of a shattered wrist from an Offensive Tackle falling on it. This one was serious. Required surgery and a lot of metal but I was back on the field the following year. My first American Football related surgery, the first of 3 it would eventually seem.
It’s funny because my personal view on bone breaks is they don’t count.
They mend, you can play again. It’s the ligament injuries that I was worried about, and rightly so!
In 2011 the Farnham Knights withdrew from competition and dropped down to division 2.
Now living in Bristol for work I had a choice to either join our rivals, the Aztecs or look for somewhere else. I was called by the coaches at the Coventry Jets and asked to travel to play there. I had many friends already playing there and being just an hour or so drive, I said yes.
I would go on to play 6 seasons at Coventry, playing most WR but starting a few games at RB.
The first ACL
This was all until 2015, where in a non-contact injury, I snapped my left ACL. I remember it like it was yesterday. Turned to catch a ball, and my knee just buckled. It felt like someone was ramming a burning hot poker through the centre of my knee.
I knew immediately what id done, and as I lay on the field waiting for the paramedics to get to me, I thought immediately as to what it would take to return to the field. I walked off the field, and then that miraculous stuff hit me, Adrenaline! I suddenly felt no pain and within minutes was questioning whether id actually hurt myself. After 5 mins in the ambulance I walked back to the sideline with a small ice pack.
Hilariously I thought it might try to play again, I stood up and tried to jog on the sideline. But as soon as my weight went on the injured leg, it folded like a bent straw. It was then I knew id done something bad. Fast forward 6 months and I had my 2nd surgery, for a full ACL reconstruction on my left knee.
With a 12 month rehab period, I made it back to the field in 2017 for my last season with the Jets as a dedicated RB, breaking the club record for most carries by an RB in a single season. The yardage was nothing on the record but I was given the ball more than anyone else which is something I suppose. I transferred to the Aztecs in 2018.
I played 1 season with the Aztecs as an RB. I managed to finish 2nd on the score sheet, playing mostly as a backup. I enjoyed my year with the Aztecs but on a personal note, I felt I had more to offer than being a backup.
The Aztecs had some really talented guys and under new coach Ben Herod I thought getting real meaningful game time might be tough. Cue the Berkshire Renegades. My friend who played for the Renegades reached out to me following the retirement of their RB1. I thought I had nothing to lose by going along and checking them out.
I loved what I found. I found a team full of great guys and a coaching staff who were experienced and knew what they were doing. A run first offense, with coaches who had no pre-judgement of my ability and took me at what I put on tape at training. After a couple training sessions, I officially transferred and managed to win the RB1 job during the pre-season.
2 games through the 2019 season, I’d scored 2 touchdowns and had around 100yds rushing in each of the occasions. Although we lost the games, we were playing good ball and I was loving my football for the first time in a good few years, so of course it was too good to be true.
The current ACL
Game 3 comes around. An almost must win contest to avoid a relegation battle with also struggling Oxford Saints. 2 of my friends playing D for the saints meant for some fun battles on the field and the game got off to a great start!
I scored a TD in the closing part of the first quarter and our offense was having no issue moving the ball down the field. After a score by the saints, our O took to the field at a score of 14-6 and we started to move the chains.
2nd down and 7, we huddle up and the QB gets the call. “Toss right”. And I can’t explain why, but I suddenly had a dread feeling come over me. I 100% did not want to run that play. I don’t know if it was something linked to the jokes about me not being the fastest RB out there and toss plays are 1 where speed helps. I don’t know if I just thought it wasn’t the play to call at that moment, but all I knew when the huddle broke; I did not want to run that play. Maybe it was an omen for what was to come?
As the cadence went, I just knew something was going to go wrong. Its so weird, Ive replayed it over and over. I could see the LB walking down on the right side. Was I going to fumble? Was he going to lay me out? But in all scenarios did I not imagine I was about to hurt myself.
The snap came, I caught the ball and ran out to the right. The LB closed and all I had to do was a simple cut and I would have been lose in the secondary. I planted my right leg in the ground, and CLICK. Just like that a clicking sensation shook my leg and I crumbled to the floor before the LB jumped on me.
Clutching my knee again, my mind immediately jumped back to 2015 and the feeling was all to familiar, but yet so different. It felt the same, but in no way as painful. The paramedic came asking me what happened, but having been through this once, I didn’t think it was the same. The pain was a lot less and I was able to stand up and walk off. I forgot at the time, but that was my old friend Adrenaline taking effect again.
At that moment, I thought I’ve probably damaged my knee, I’m done. I took off my kit off.
I went and sat with my wife, hoping for the best.
Fast forward an hour, and the game goes south. 1 of our other top RB’s goes down with a foot injury and the team need some help. It’s at that moment that my dumb brain goes “hey, you can get back in this game, it’s not that bad!”
I stood up, and did a light jog. Remember back to 2015, when I tried, I crumbled.
This time around, the jog test passed. So I decided to try a sprint. Again, fine. I mean my knee wasn’t comfortable and you could tell it was hurt, but I just thought it was a sprain.
I then tried sprinting with a 90 degree cut. If it was torn, surely Id fall over. It was fine. That’s it, im getting back in the game. On went my kit, and thanks to a teammate, a knee brace with hinges, my knee couldn’t go anywhere right?
So back in I go. Start of the 4th quarter, and I’m ready to rock!
1st play, a simple inside zone to the right. However, something goes wrong, the DE destroys his block and fall all intent and purpose, clothes lines me in the backfield.
I spin on the spot, and CLICK. My knee just buckles again.
Down I go and looking up to the clouds, I knew that I’d done some damage to my knee.
The question is, how bad was it this time?
Join me next time as I cover the immediate days after and the diagnosis!