BATON ROUGE, La. — If you spot LSU outside linebacker Andre Anthony wearing a 3-inch screw around his neck, don’t worry. It’s not anything too weird. It just used to be in his foot.
Days before LSU’s season opener against BYU last fall, Anthony was on the practice field for a one-on-one drill with his teammates when he heard something in his left foot pop. The pain was notable, but he didn’t think much of it until he got his X-ray results. Turns out, the bone between his big toe and his second toe had split, known as a Lisfranc fracture.
This left him with two options: Wait out the injury and see if it heals properly, or undergo season-ending surgery to install a screw across his foot to secure all the bones. Anthony elected for the former, but after about six weeks it became apparent that he’d need the surgery. So on Oct. 12, doctors inserted a long screw through Anthony’s metatarsal bones.
Come February, Anthony was ready to return to practice. But something didn’t feel quite right. He wasn’t in pain, but he could feel the screw in his foot when he ran. Not an ache, but just enough discomfort that he expected it would take too long for him to warm up. So he opted to have the screw removed.
Now he keeps it in a jar at his home.
“It’s like a screw that you could put in a wall, really,” Anthony said. “It’s just sitting in the cup. I might make it a keychain.”
The long road back
They may not receive the same publicity as ACL tears, but Lisfranc fractures are just as serious. In some cases, such as when Pittsburgh Steelers star Le’Veon Bell sustained the injury in 2013, surgery is unnecessary and six weeks of rest will do the trick. Other times, like with former Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker or former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, a Lisfranc fracture requires a year of rest and rehab.
After learning his diagnosis, the first thing Anthony did was Google the injury. He looked for ways to rehab and heal on his own. Anything to speed up his recovery.
But there were times when he felt all was lost. Anthony admits to “breaking down” on more than one occasion. One time last fall, after being unable to run a “hoop drill” in which a pass rusher circles around a hoop to practice balance and centering his gravity, Anthony retreated into the locker room and called his mother, admitting he didn’t know what to do.
Another time, Anthony went back and visited his alma mater, Edna Karr High School in New Orleans, where a simple checkup conversation turned into harrowing inspiration.
“I remember going to a Karr game last year,” Anthony recalled. “Of course everybody wants to make sure what happened and stuff like that. But I remember I was talking to a guy, I forgot his name, and he said he heard about my injury. It kind of scared me. He said he had one and he was never the same from it. But in my head, I was like, ‘I ain’t trying to be that guy. I’m trying to make sure I’m gonna heal.’ ”
Not that guy
Two weeks into spring camp, Anthony admits he isn’t 100 percent. He’s more like 95 percent. But the last chasm he has to cross isn’t physical. His remaining obstacles are cerebral.
“Being out for a year, you’re limping, you’ve been in a boot,” Anthony said. “I’ll be running on my toes and I’ll be good, but I’ll be like ‘hold up.’ Now I feel I’m at 95 percent, but that 5 percent is mental stuff.”
A pass-rush specialist by trade, Anthony is working as one of LSU’s B linebackers along with sophomores K’Lavon Chaisson and Ray Thornton and junior college transfer Travez Moore. Anthony said he doesn’t feel as if he’s too far behind his teammates since he spent his injury year studying the playbook. But he needs to regain comfort running, something he’s only been doing for about a month.
Anthony isn’t experiencing pain at this point, which is a good sign. He’s a little bit stiff in his hips and thinks he needs to build a little more flexibility in his ankles, but he says 5-10 minutes of balance exercises before or after practice should remedy that.
Now the biggest goal for Anthony is staying healthy. After taking a redshirt in 2016 and missing all of 2017 due to injury, the redshirt sophomore is still in search of his LSU debut. Spring is a great chance for him to prove his newfound vitality, but he’ll have to wait another six months before he can experience game action.
Or should we say, be unscrewed?