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Football: Road to recovery – Bridgeport senior returns after gruesome injury

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, August 29, 2018
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Hes Back

HE’S BACK – Bridgeport running back Christian Hand talks with quarterback Jadon Maddux during Bridgeport’s scrimmage against Boyd last Thursday. Hand missed the majority of last season after his fibula suffered a spiral fracture against Benbrook at Bridgeport’s homecoming game. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Bridgeport running back and linebacker Christian Hand has never shied away from contact.

“I’ve had this mentality to hit someone before they hit you on the football field,” Hand said.

It’s been that way since Hand was in pee-wee football. It was on display last October during the Bulls’ homecoming game against Benbrook, when Hand was in hot pursuit of a defining moment, sprinting down the sideline at Bull Memorial Stadium.

Bull pride and mums filled the stands as Hand gained ground on the ball carrier, dragging him down for a touchdown saving tackle.

Returning Starter

RETURNING STARTER – Bridgeport running back and linebacker Christian Hand stands on the sideline during a scrimmage against Boyd at Bull Memorial Stadium in Bridgeport lost Thursday. The senior returns to the lineup after a major leg injury ended his junior season. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The impact of the pads and the whistle sent an ovation through the stands, but the crack of bone and Hand’s blood curdling scream brought hushed murmurs and deafening silence.

“My leg cracked. It just got twisted,” Hand said. “I screamed in pain, and the coaches heard me from the other sideline.”

Bridgeport’s coaching staff knew by the way Hand reacted it was a serious injury, rushing to the field to check on their linebacker – a team standout primed for a big junior season.

Hand’s fibula was cracked. The X-ray showed a spiral fracture, an injury from which many never come back.

His season was over. And his career in football was mired in doubt.

But Hand never let that doubt creep in.

After hearing his junior year was over, Hand was determined make a comeback.

“After the injury, I wanted to be back to 100 percent by the time seven-on-seven got here,” he said. “I knew I would be back.”

Hand underwent two surgeries. One to mend the broken bone with plates and nine screws. The second to pull the rods that extended from his tibia to his fibula out from the bone.

After surgery, Hand was on crutches for 15 weeks.

Then came an extensive rehab process, where the athlete had to learn to walk on the leg that shattered beneath him.

Eventually, he began to run. Then lift.

This summer, Hand accomplished his goal. He took the field alongside his teammates for the first time since the spiral fracture in the Bulls’ run in the state 7-on-7 tournament in College Station.

Hand said the feeling of suiting up and competing with his teammates again made the pain and struggle to return worth it.

“It was exhilarating, just to be able to compete,” he said. “That was the first time I really cut after the injury, and I didn’t feel any pain and I knew I could trust it. That really boosted my confidence.”

Bridgeport coach Shannon Wilson said Hand has more than just recovered from injury.

“He’s a leader and a hard worker,” Wilson said. “Anything you could ask for a player to be in the locker room as a team guy, he’s it. I’m proud of him.”

In addition to his talents on the football field, Hand is at the top of his class academically, Hand’s stepdad and Bridgeport Police Chief Steve Stanford said.

“He’s a special kid,” Stanford said. “He’s tough and smart. I couldn’t be prouder of him. He’s been through a lot.”

Based on the pops at the line of scrimmage and seeing Hand churn through would-be-tacklers in Bridgeport’s scrimmage against Boyd last week, you wouldn’t guess the senior had suffered a potential career-ending injury.

Hand was full speed, playing the majority of the first team snaps at running back, linebacker and on special teams.

“He’s hard to get off the field,” Wilson said.

Hand’s personal goal for this season is simple.

“Be the best that I can be,” he said.

After quarterback Jadon Maddux’s breakout season last year, Hand is excited about what the pair can accomplish. With his tough running style and Maddux’s passing ability and blazing speed, Hand believes the duo will be able to keep defenses on their toes.

“It’s going to be like lightning and thunder,” Hand said. “With the defense having to worry about containment and making sure that (Maddux) doesn’t run around with just how fast he is, it really makes my job easy.”

Hand will return to the field on Friday, taking on Pilot Point in Bridgeport’s season opener at Bull Memorial Stadium.

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