FORT WAYNE — Over the last three years at Carroll, not much has slowed senior Justin Tranquill. He has showed off his athletic ability and outstanding speed on the football field, running up yards and records as a running back and defensive back.
And while an ACL tear and surgery put his career to an abrupt halt, the senior said he has no regrets after hurting his right knee in a non-school event.
“I was just playing the game I love,” Tranquill said. “It sucks that it had to happen in 7-on-7 and not during the school season, but that’s something that is obviously tough for me. I was out there enjoying myself, and it was a freak accident. It is obviously upsetting, but there’s nothing to regret or anything to look back on.”
Tranquill suffered his season-ending injury while playing for Athletes With Purpose’s 7-on-7 football team in the IMG nationals in Bradenton, Florida, in late June. He had surgery two weeks ago and should make a full recovery.
“It is a pretty big injury when it comes to you playing football,” Tranquill said. “It’s the one injury you hear about, you are just, like, ‘Wow, that’s not good.’ It was hard to accept the fact that you are going to miss your senior season, but at the same time you have to stay as positive as you can through this process, instead of focusing on the negatives and bringing myself down and those around me down.”
Last season, Tranquill ran for 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns and set the school’s single-game rushing record with 254 yards and is a highly sought after defensive back recruiting prospect.
“My biggest concern is that a kid has lost the opportunity for his senior year,” Carroll coach Doug Dinan said. “That’s immaterial of how it happened, whether it happened walking off a curb or happened in practice. I am saddened for the fact that he doesn’t have a senior year to compete.”
Tranquill still has scholarship offers from Purdue, Indiana, Cincinnati and Mid-American Conference schools but did lose an offer from Illinois. Although Tranquill said that probably would have been lost anyway when another defensive back committed to the Illini. He said there are other schools who might have been on the verge of offering as well but decided to wait and see how his recovery goes.
Tranquill’s injury does bring up an interesting debate over risk vs. reward for athletes – particularly top-level football players – and their participation in non-scholastic events that could cause substantial setbacks.
“Like his mother said, he could have torn his ACL playing catch in the backyard with his friends or tore his ACL at the YMCA playing basketball,” AWP President and CEO Mike Ledo said.
The risks can be obvious when a player of Tranquill’s talent is hurt, but the rewards are there as well. They may not be obvious to the common fan, but not to those who see the opportunities for the athletes.
“You look at the risk vs. reward, then let’s look at the reward side,” Ledo said. “Let’s talk about Auston Robertson at Wayne High School who has an offer from Notre Dame, and he didn’t even play defensive end last year. Who even knew who Auston Robertson was three to four months ago? Now he is the No. 3 defensive end in the country. Let’s be honest and fair about (receiver) Austin Mack’s as a high school football player. What has he done at Bishop Luers? And he has an Ohio State, a Michigan and a Notre Dame offer. Where did that come from? Those are the rewards.
“In Justin’s case, luckily for him there are still a handful of schools that are holding onto his scholarship (offer).”
Ledo was an outstanding running back at Luers in the early 2000s and knows what recruiting was like even then. Behind his company and others like it, the offseason has become as equally as important for a football player going to the next level as the high school season itself.
“From Justin’s standpoint, it is unfortunate,” Ledo said. “He is going to miss out on his senior (football) year from the standpoint of memories and not going to get to play with his friends and not do a lot of things that he should get to do and would be available to him. On the other hand, let’s not lose sight of this young man, and the fact he has a collegiate career ahead of him and football’s not done.
“Any time an athlete competes and puts on a competitive garment, they run the risk of an injury – whether it is in two-a-days or whether it is in a Friday night game or whether it is in an AAU game or a volleyball game. Any time you do that, you are susceptible to injury and regardless of whether you were in the greatest care or the greatest supervision care or poor care and poor supervision, the probability may improve somewhere but it doesn’t go anywhere.”