Albert Awachie is a physical specimen. Currently listed at 6’3” and 228 pounds, Awachie is so talented and gifted at football that his position on the field is ambiguous to the Varsity Blues coaching staff. He resembles the Predator, a sneaky alien monster attacking players on other OUA teams. At first, Awachie may seem intimidating, but really, he’s a humble, motivated, and gifted athlete with a big smile and big dreams.
The third-year UTM political science student from Colorado, U.S. suffered a horrific knee injury last January that sidelined him for the entire 2015 season, putting a roadblock in the ambitious man’s dreams. He suffered a knee dislocation that tore his bicep tendon, lateral collateral ligament, and anterior cruciate ligament.
Initially, when Awachie injured himself in the Varsity Field dome, he grabbed his leg in agony, wondering how this could happen.
“I started to question everything; was I not humble enough, did my prayers go through, what about my time, my money, my blood—it felt like closing credits. My friends got in contact with me and gave me encouragement, which eventually eased my mind,” says Awachie.
When Awachie’s teammate and fellow UTM student Aaron Jervis received a harrowing concussion in 2014, finding himself sidelined for the remainder of that year, some significant life-changing lessons set in.
“I learned I’m no longer the hero figure I imagined myself to be. I’m just a man whose actions are subject to the laws of physics. There is no mercy of these laws in the collision of sports,” says Jervis.
The most difficult thing about coming back after a distressing concussion or knee injury may be your ability to maintain a mindset that is confident and relentless.
“To play football differently would not be playing football, it would be watching,” says Jervis.
Awachie didn’t want to accept the reality of his situation, so he would show up to school without crutches before his surgery, trying to tough it out.
“I stayed confident almost to a fault,” says Awachie. “After surgery, I expected to stay ahead of the timeline because I had an excellent staff and rehab facility [Goldring Centre for High-Performance Sport] who I’d visit at least three times a week. I needed to rely on a will to beat the odds, which I felt I could do.”
Though Awachie went through a difficult time recovering from his injury, he’s maintained a positive attitude. Looking back, he sees the injury as providing him with insight and a maturity that he can go on and take to accomplish his next great challenges.
“I had to learn to be more patient and accept time as my friend, whereas before I was always trying to beat it. The injury narrowed my priorities to simply recovering and keeping my grades in check,” he said.
There’s a realistic chance that Awachie will grab the attention of professional football scouts next year. He also feels his football mindset has improved as he heads into training camp next year, his eyes set on a successful future with the program and career.
“Relying less on my athleticism and focusing more on detail has helped slowed the game for me,” says Awachie. He isn’t intimidated by the reality that he could fall victim to another injury when he suits up for the 2016 Varsity Blues.
“I want to finish what I started. Everything will fall into place. I must appreciate the opportunities others give me,” he says.
Awachie wants to inspire others to push through the tough times and remain patient following their recovery plan; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. He made a video of himself running on a football field in August for the first time since his injury, showing family and teammates that he’s more ready than every to turn heads on the field.
Awachie doesn’t want to be defined by his injury; he wants to be determined by how well he used injury as motivation to become not only the best athlete he can be, but also the best version of himself.
“Don’t let go of the pain, that’s your drive—find a positive way to embrace it, and it’ll add to your story,” he says. “You’ll look back at what you had to go through, and you’ll realize you’re better off facing the next big decision in your life because of the lessons you learned.