Coy Steel was on pace to break Wyoming’s all-class receiving yards mark when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of this knees during Sheridan’s 48-7 win over Cheyenne East on Sept. 18, 2015.
Steel had hauled in 18 passes for 333 yards and six touchdowns through his three-plus games. The state receiving record stands at 1,116 yards according to wyoming-football.com.
ACL injuries aren’t as catastrophic as they were as little as a decade ago, but they’re still not easy to come back from.
Steel, though, has returned full strength and is gearing up for his senior season.
“It gets a little bit sore some times,” he said after Sheridan’s Aug. 11 practice. “But I don’t even think about it when I’m out there. My goal coming back from this injury was getting to the point where I didn’t even think about it anymore.”
That last part is a crucial step in the recovery process.
Returning from surgically repaired injuries often includes overcoming the mental hurdle of wondering whether the repaired body part is strong enough to survive the rigors of sports.
It can take games, months or even years for athletes to fully regain their trust.
Fortunately for Steel, he had a season to test out the knee before he returned to the gridiron.
He earned second team all-state honors for the Sheridan Troopers, helping them place second at the Wyoming Class AA American Legion baseball tournament.
“Baseball doesn’t put as much stress on the knee as football does,” Steel said. “To me, that was like another three months of rehab. Running on and off the field, running the bases, having to get reads on balls in the outfield and change directions – all of that helped me be confident in my knee.
“I gained a lot of confidence in my knee during the baseball season.”
Steel admits that he was nervous about his knee before he stepped on the diamond but his physical therapist and Sheridan High athletic trainer Joanne Brewster helped put his mind at ease.
“They told me that it was all in my head and that I’d be good to go,” he said. “That was a big boost of confidence.”
Steel had surgery within a week of suffering his injury because he wanted to get his rehab started as soon as he could, Broncs coach Don Julian said.
Steel suffered some soreness during the first week of fall camp but it shouldn’t be a problem come Aug. 26 when Sheridan opens its season by hosting Laramie.
“He’s going to be fine and the knee is good to go,” Julian said.