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Playing through the pain: Roth shows grit, selflessness during senior year

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, July 7, 2018
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Best of Sports 2017-2018: Denny Deady Sportsman of the Year

Braxton Roth. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

At every Decatur baseball game this spring, Braxton Roth was in the dugout or helping warm a pitcher up in the bullpen.

For three months, Roth diligently showed up to practices and games to support his teammates – knowing he would never see the field.

“He wasn’t out there just to be out there,” said Decatur baseball coach Tommy Maddox. “He was in the game, every inning and every pitch, trying to figure out what he could do to help. It speaks volumes for him as a person, his parents and the way they raised him.

“I know he had an impact on us.”

Roth tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a football game against Bridgeport last October. As the defensive end was coming in to make a tackle on Bulls’ quarterback Jadon Maddux, his leg got twisted and his knee eventually buckled.

The injury left his knee swollen and unstable, but Roth was not ready to call it quits.

Instead of immediately having surgery to repair the ligament, Roth contemplated whether he could play injured. After getting the results of his MRI, Roth and his parents met with doctors to weigh the risks.

His father, Tony, who was the defensive coordinator at Decatur last year, was apprehensive at first.

“I didn’t want him to not be able to walk down stairs or carry his kids down to the bank to go fishing,” Tony said. “I tried to counsel him on that, but he was determined.”

Since Braxton only suffered damage to his ACL, doctors said he could potentially play through it – but could damage his entire knee in the process.

“Since I just tore my ACL, [the doctor] said I had a risk of blowing up everything in my knee,” Braxton said. “He was not all for the playing thing. Everything in [my] knee could have been destroyed.”

Knowing he could put his whole knee in jeopardy, Braxton made the decision to finish out the season with a torn ACL.

“I didn’t really know at that point if I was going to play in college or not,” Braxton said. “I wanted to end on my own terms.”

Braxton spent the next several weeks following his injury doing rehab in the pool with athletic trainer Kam Phillips. Together, Braxton and Phillips made their way to the Fit-N-Wise pool every morning at 4 a.m.

Braxton Roth. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“As soon as his doctor cleared him for that, we hopped in,” Phillips said. “We lived in that pool doing slides and cuts underwater, that way he wasn’t bearing weight. As we progressed through that, his strength and range of motion came back.”

Braxton missed just two games before returning Oct. 27 against Gainesville. To get him ready, Phillips and fellow trainer Fernando Escobar heavily taped Braxton’s knee prior to him suiting up. His knee was also placed in a bulky brace.

With the support of his parents, teammates, coaches and friends, Braxton finished the season and was on the field for the Eagles’ playoff run. Decatur advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2013 with Braxton playing in every game down the stretch.

When the curtain finally closed Dec. 1 in the regional quarterfinals against Wichita Falls Hirschi, Braxton had racked up four sacks and 78 total tackles. He ranked third and fourth on the team in those respective categories.

By season’s end, Roth had been named to the District 4-4A Division I second-team.

“Braxton is a coach’s dream,” said Decatur head coach Mike Fuller. “He always came with a great attitude and worked hard. He always put the team first. Braxton’s mental and physical toughness separated him from the average player. He made a difference every day.”

Braxton had surgery to repair his torn ACL two weeks after Decatur’s season-ending loss to Hirschi. Surgeons took a graft from Braxton’s patellar tendon to repair the damaged ligament.

Despite playing six games with no ACL, Braxton suffered no additional damage to his knee. The surgery was a success, and seven months after the operation, Braxton is back to running, cutting and working out regularly.

During the baseball season, Braxton went through his rehab that included weight and resistance training to strengthen the muscles around his knee. Although he couldn’t play, Braxton became a fixture on the field as Decatur’s de-facto bullpen and conditioning coach.

“There were some [times] I kind of got on to them and wished I was out there, but I realized this is not a selfish game,” Braxton said. “Growing up in a household where your dad is a coach, it’s about the team. You have to think of the team first. That’s a conversation we had coming back from my knee injury. If I can’t perform to the level that we need, I’m not going to play.”

Braxton will play football at Fort Hays State University in Kansas in the fall. His athletic journey did not end at Decatur, but his father – as well as several others – will never forget what he did his senior year, both on and off the field.

His selflessness made him the 2018 Denny Deady Sportsman of the Year.

“He’s always wanted to be a part of it,” Tony said. “Whether he’s the starter [or not]. It’s a game with his friends. He doesn’t want to miss out on the excitement and fun of it.

“As tough as it was for him, his knee injury will be something we’ll remember forever and talk about forever. That’s probably my proudest moment – him getting through that.”

DENNY DEADY SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR RECIPIENTS

2014: Marshall Anderle, Chico
2015: Caitlin Pruett, Slidell
2016: Dylana Hutchins, Decatur
2017: Kayson Roof, Slidell
2018: Braxton Roth, Decatur

DENNY DEADY SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

Denny Deady

Denny Deady is not only a beloved member of the Messenger family, but is also respected and held in high regard across Wise County.

Her generous spirit, kind heart and sincere interest in people were the basis for her successful newspaper career and remarkable community involvement.

“To say that a person is the ‘heart and soul’ of an organization may seem trite, but without a doubt, for the Wise County Messenger, that honor goes to Denny Deady, who was a part of the staff for more than 30 years,” said publisher Roy Eaton.

Deady, who retired in the fall of 2010 after 33 years with the Messenger, held various positions and played an integral role in making the paper a community cornerstone. She started as a staff reporter, also covering sports, and was eventually named sports editor. She later moved to the ad department, where she served as manager, and she retired as the Messenger’s special projects manager.

“Denny was a great writer and covered many of the newspaper’s biggest stories during her career,” Eaton said. “But to just stop there would not do her justice. Her generosity with her time and talents is legendary.”

Her community involvement was widespread, and as a breast cancer survivor, many of her activities centered on women’s health issues. Her baking, especially her sweet rolls, is legendary, and she has donated dozens to community fundraisers. At one event, car dealers James Wood and Karl Klement got in a bidding war for them, and when the hammer fell, the rolls had sold for $4,000 with all the money going to charity.

Denny and her husband, Brian, a retired teacher and football coach, now live in Magnolia to be near their daughter and son-in-law, Guinness and Brent Collins, and grandsons Eoghan and Finn.

The Messenger now annually honors an athlete from Wise County that best exemplifies the same traits as the Denny Deady Sportsman of the Year.

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