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York bounces back from bad breaks of last season

Ironton Fighting Tigers’ quarterback cheers on his teammates during pregame warmups last season. York missed last season with a broken leg but has undergone rehabilitation to put him in position to challenge for the starting job. (Photo Submitted)

Jim Walker

When a performer gets ready to go on stage or before any kind of audience, people will tell the performer “break a leg” which is a term of wishing good luck.
When Will York gets ready to head for the football field, please refrain from saying “break a leg.” He’s already done that and it’s not the kind of luck he wants.
Heading into his senior season, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Ironton Fighting Tigers’ quarterback has had to battle back from a broken leg and work hard to put himself in position to compete for the starting job.
York broke his leg in practice prior to the Jackson scrimmage. Surgery left him with a rod in his leg and three screws across his knee. He wore a brace until the season’s eight game.
At first, the injury was thought to be so severe that the three-sport athlete was told he may never play again.
But that diagnosis was later downgraded and York had a new ray of hope about his return.
“It was pretty close. Honestly at first, they thought I blew my knee out on top of (breaking the leg). But I just broke my femur at my knee. They said I got pretty lucky with it,” said York.
He began a four-month rehabilitation process four two hours a day, three days a week at Tri-State Rehab in Ironton under the guidance of therapist Dave Coburn.
“It wasn’t the funnest thing in world but I got over it. Dave for sure helped me a lot,” said York.
“Not too often do you see a femur fracture period. It’s pretty much the biggest bone in your body. It was pretty much shattered. Dr. (Jarrod) Smith did an unbelievable job getting it back together,” said Coburn.
When a person tears an ACL, they can get back on their feet after two or three days following surgery. Coburn said that this injury was much worse than an ACL tea.
At the start of the rehabilitation, Coburn said that York was in a wheelchair for several weeks to prevent any weight bearing on his leg and then eventually he began to work on strengthening the leg and getting his range of motion to return.
“He came to me on crutches and barely putting any weight on his leg. He’d lost almost 25 percent of his muscle girth. That’s how much atrophy he’d lost from not putting any weight on his leg,” said Coburn.
The hard work in rehab helped change the diagnosis so much that York was entertaining thoughts of playing basketball.
“At first, Dave told me I wasn’t going to be able to play. He wanted just me to rehab all the way up until football season. But then Dr. (Jarrod) Smith did my surgery and I got my last X-ray and he told me he was comfortable with me playing basketball as long as Dave said it was OK. I got the OK from both of them and there I was,” said York.
Even with rehab work and workouts, York wasn’t quite back at full strength.
“It was a little bit weak at first, but it didn’t really affect me too much. I just powered through it,” said York.
“He’d lost maybe 50, 60 percent of his mobility and range of motion in his knee. His calf was about half the size of his other one. It was like looking at two totally different legs,” said Coburn.
York did nearly four months of therapy and Coburn utilized a new blood flow restriction procedure to help speed up the rehab process.
“It’s kind of a new-age thing that more sports medicine is going to. It gets kids back on the field a little faster and maybe stronger,” said Coburn.
“We grade strength at zero to five. We looked his quads and hamstrings and he was down around to two out of five. We want him around 90, 95 percent to return and play again. Not only did he have to learn to walk, he had to get his muscle built back up. Then he had to get his mobility back and on top of that he had to learn to run, jump and cut again.”
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, York and his teammates weren’t able to workout at the school. But periodically, York and a small handful of receivers found an empty field and worked on the passing game.
Despite missing virtually his entire junior season, York said he was able to bounce back rather quickly and he felt the pandemic layoff actually was a blessing.
“I feel like it’s probably helped me because I’ve gotten out and I’ve gotten a lot stronger since this has all happened. Just being around a smaller group of people, it’s helped me realize I’ve gotten stronger,” said York.
“It took me maybe a day or two of getting my timing back down, but honestly, I’ve gotten back to where my timing is right. I’m on track with most of the guys. My arm has gotten stronger.”
Generally, after an injury — especially of this magnitude — an athlete has to tackle the mental aspect of getting hurt again. York just shrugged at any thoughts of another injury.
“I’m not really worried about it. I’m sure once I get out there the butterflies will be back, but I’m not too worried. I feel my leg is strong enough now and I don’t let it affect me too much,” said York.
“I just want to compete, win the job this year and hopefully lead us back to our goal in Canton.”
After taking on the rehab challenge, York is now ready to address a challenge that’s more to his preference.
The quarterback job has been handled the past three seasons by Gage Salyers who was a second team All-Ohio selection last year and signed with Youngstown State.
Salyers helped Ironton finish 13-2 and state runners-up in Division 5, so York knows there are big shoes to fill but the task is not daunting to him.
“I just hope they trust in us and I think we can be pretty balanced this year. Gage, obviously, was really good and he’s going to be hard to replace. He started three years. Hopefully, they trust in me and all goes as planned,” said York.
And when Will York hits the field to perform, the only thing he wants to break are the hearts of Ironton’s opponents.