MADISON, Ala. — Austin Troxell knew the routine. Surgery. Daily rehab work. Therapy three times a week. Heartache.
He experienced it before, when the 6-foot-7 offensive lineman went down with a right ACL tear in the first round of the state playoffs last year. Troxell endured the standard nine-month rehabilitation period. In that time, he committed to Auburn and earned an Under Armour All-America Game bid.
All Troxell really wanted was to return to the football field and contribute. He did so admirably for three weeks.
In Week 4, a pancake block turned into what his coach called a “freak thing” that resulted in an ACL and meniscus tear on the same knee as 2015.
“I didn’t think that I tore my ACL at all until, really, the day of surgery, after the surgery. It was just devastating, finding out the news that I’d torn my ACL, and I’d be out for — my high school career was over,” Troxell told SEC Country. “It was kind of devastating at first, and it still kind of is, but I’m getting over it a little bit. It’s hard. But I’m making it.”
The season-ending injury cut short Troxell’s career at Madison Academy. It also stripped the Auburn commit of his dream of playing in one of the two major high school All-America games. As a freshman, Troxell set out to play in either the Under Armour All-America Game or the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Under Armour invited him last summer, and the injury came just before his jersey ceremony. Troxell said the invite is a “high honor,” but it’s still bittersweet knowing he’s held off the football field again.
“I can’t really try to keep my mind off it. It’s always going to be there,” Troxell said. “Football is one of the biggest things in my life, and for that to be taken away from me two years in a row, that’s tough. But I’m trying to stay involved with the team still. I want to be a leader still, like I was before, maintain the role I’ve had playing.”
Troxell still will get to make the trip to Orlando, Fla., for the all-star festivities and Jan. 1 game.
But, the ultimate teammate, Troxell has served as player-coach since going down with the knee injury. He’s still seen every Friday night, crutching along the sidelines. His veteran leadership has been a major asset for Madison Academy, which still finds itself firmly in playoff position despite being without its 4-star offensive lineman.
“The kids respect him because he’s been there and done that. When he talks, they listen. He’s down there on the sideline on Fridays. He’s comforting to them, and he’s positive with them,” Madison Academy coach Grant Reynolds said. “It’s a big help for us.”
Troxell shows a tough exterior, a good symbol of what Auburn fans should expect from the tackle when he gets on campus. But back-to-back seasons with an ACL tear can be traumatic and, unfortunately, something that cautions college programs.
Auburn should be commended for its assistance in helping Troxell through the process.
Immediately after the injury, the Tigers coaching staff ensured that Troxell need not worry that any injury-history concerns might affect his Auburn scholarship offer. The athletic department sent Troxell multiple cards wishing him well in his recovery.
That affirmation came at a crucial time for the grieving Troxell.
“They were great right after I got hurt, showing love and all that,” Troxell said. “It’s the people that are there. It’s the coaches they have. The people make it a family atmosphere.”
The second time through rehab and therapy is maddeningly repetitive, but Troxell knows it’s a necessity. On the bright side, the nine-month recovery process appears to be on track.
And, according to doctors, Troxell said he’s on a better track this time.
“Right now, I’m progressing way faster than I did before. I’m still doing the same things,” Troxell said. “It’s just the second time going through it.”
Madison Academy connection
The upper school at Madison Academy has fewer than 400 students. The school has a recent history of personnel that could rack up 400 rush yards a game.
Does that high school program sound familiar? That’s because it’s the former home of Auburn running backs Kerryon Johnson and Malik Miller. Johnson and Miller sat out during Auburn’s 543-yard rushing performance, but they will be an integral part of the rushing attack for years.
Troxell will add a third member of the Madison Academy run-game family to the Auburn roster.
Troxell said it made his job simple.
“With two great backs like that, you don’t have to hold your blocks that long. It was fun playing with those guys,” he said.
Just imagine, as a high school coach, trying to game-plan for a high school team with Johnson, Miller and Troxell. The 4-star offensive tackle communicates regularly with Johnson, who was a senior during Troxell’s last full season without injury.
Auburn to look elsewhere in secondary
This was mostly a foregone conclusion, but Russ Yeast won’t play his college football at Auburn.
Yeast, the son of former Kentucky great Craig Yeast, finalized his college decision Monday. He announced via Twitter that he was committing to Louisville to play cornerback.
— Russ Yeast (@russ_yeast03) October 25, 2016
Yeast officially visited Auburn for the Clemson game to start the season. It was the beginning of his official visit tour, which made stops to Ole Miss, Iowa, Alabama and Louisville. His trip to visit the Cardinals showed Yeast all he needed to see.
On Aug. 5, Yeast had this to say about the Tigers: “Auburn’s definitely in my top group, definitely in my top group.” The appeal of Louisville’s offensive weaponry could’ve helped for a player who has the ability to play on both sides of the ball. Auburn wanted him in the secondary, and that’s where he’ll likely play at Louisville. Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino sees him as an asset offensively.
So, back to what matters most for this platform: What does this mean for Auburn?
Well, the Tigers had their sights set elsewhere, probably not anticipating a pledge from Yeast. He would’ve been a cornerback, so now Auburn can turn its full attention to JaTarvious Whitlow, Devon Hunter, C.J. Avery, Shawn Shamburger, DeAngelo Gibbs and others as options in the secondary.