Recruiting

Syracuse defensive back commit Williams works way back from broken fibula

Courtesy of Cherry Hill West High School

Cherry Hill West High School's Rodney Williams broke his fibula on Oct. 19. He knows a return is unlikely, but hopes to be back for the postseason.

It’s 6:30 a.m., and Brian Wright arrives at Cherry Hill (N.J.) West High School for another day of school. He walks past the weight room and takes a glance inside.

Rodney Williams, boot on his left foot, is already half an hour into a workout session with the team’s new starting quarterback.

“He’s doing everything he can, and he’s very anxious to get back out there with his teammates,” Wright said. “He’s in the training room every day, working with our athletic trainer, doing whatever he needs to do to get himself ready.”

Williams, a three-star recruit by Scout.com, is one of Syracuse’s 14 verbal commits in its incoming Class of 2014. An extremely versatile player for Cherry Hill West, he’s expected to join the Orange’s secondary next year.

But before the Lions complete their ongoing season, Williams hopes his broken left fibula makes a recovery in time to re-join the team for its likely playoff appearance. The odds are against Williams, but he’s making his best effort.

“There’s not a good chance,” he said, “but I’m really trying. Definitely trying.”

In Cherry Hill West’s game at Seneca on Oct. 11, Williams felt pain in his left calf after a late hit out of bounds. He fought through the pain to finish the game, but had to see a doctor the following week, who told him he had bone bruising.

Relegated to crutches during the first half of the week, he finally jogged around that Thursday and practiced leading up to the Lions’ Oct. 19 matchup against Woodrow Wilson High School.

The second quarter had just begun, and Williams was 5 yards away from his third touchdown of the game. But his fibula couldn’t handle the pressure of the cut he was trying to make, and the bone snapped.

“At the time, I thought I just got kicked in the leg pretty bad,” Williams said. “But when I saw it on film, it was pretty disgusting.”

Still, he walked on that leg for the rest of the day. When he went to the hospital, the medical staff told him it was still a bone bruise and “nothing major” — until the X-rays indicated otherwise. The initial response from the team doctor, Wright said, was that Williams would be sidelined 2-4 weeks, with a four-week time period being more likely.

Until then, Cherry Hill West is missing its starting quarterback, safety, kicker, kick and punt returner — the list of Williams’ duties goes on. The Lions escaped with a one-point win over Woodrow Wilson, but lost by four touchdowns without him on Friday.

“Offensively, we’ve lost three touchdowns a game,” Cherry Hill West defensive backs coach Tyree Jackson said. “We’re losing a leader on offense, defense, special teams.”

Currently, Williams is letting the swelling ease up. He recently began putting weight on his swollen foot, and his calf is even bigger now than it was before. Once the swelling is relieved, Wright said, Williams will take a more aggressive approach to his rehab. He’s scheduled to visit a doctor next week for re-evaluation.

But that doesn’t stop him from hitting the gym. Every morning of every school day.

He now weighs 190 pounds after weighing 160 this time a year ago, he said, and he’s hoping to build some more upper-body strength.

At the same time, Williams has embraced a larger leadership role for the Lions.

He has taken the team’s new quarterback under his wing. The coaches had him speak to the group before Friday’s game. And if a teammate deserves feedback — for something he can improve on, or something he does well — Williams is there, lending his four years of varsity football experience to the rest of the Lions.

It took Williams almost a week to accept the possibility that his high school football career may be over, but Syracuse defensive line coach Tim Daoust reassured Williams that his career wasn’t over. There’s even a chance Williams’ fibula will grow back stronger, Wright said, when the bone regenerates.

Combined with the solace he finds as a rejuvenated leader for Cherry Hill West, Williams has plenty of reason to stay upbeat.

“It’s just the support that I’ve got,” he said. “From even Syracuse fans now, my friends at school, family — They’ve done a great job supporting me since this has happened.

“I mean, it could be a lot worse. I’m still thankful for the position I’m in.”

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