Standing on the sidelines of Clarke Central High School’s football games and cheering his teammates on is one of their most vital players, CCHS senior Rodney Willingham, who cannot play due to a broken ankle.
CCHS senior running back Rodney Willingham will not play for the remainder of the season after sustaining an ankle injury during practice. Photo by Porter McLeod.
This year, Willingham transferred to CCHS from Cedar Shoals High School to play football for the gladiators.Willingham sustained a season ending blow during practice on Tuesday, Oct. 2. On Oct. 8, Willingham had surgery on his ankle, starting the recovery process.
“They operated on my left ankle (on Monday). I think they put a metal plate and three screws in,” Willingham said.
After undergoing surgery, Willingham will be rehabilitated by months of recovery.
“I have to wear a soft cast for two weeks and a hard cast for four weeks. After that I can go to three to four months of therapy,” Willingham said.
With Willingham out for the season, senior Jalani Payne will fill his position as starting running back.
“(Payne) will take over full time running back, as of the Apalachee game (on September 22) Willingham was the starter, but they got equal carries,” CCHS Athletic Director Jon Ward said.
With football out of the question, there is still a possibility of Willingham continuing his athletic career.
“Hopefully I can run track in the spring, only time will tell though,” Willingham said.
Although his high school football career is over, Willingham still hopes to play football at a college level in the near future.
“I think he will (go to post-secondary). He is solid academically, he’s on film and I don’t think this will hamper him, with technology the way it is today,” Ward said.
When considering his future in football, Willingham feels he must stay positive about the future.
“I was depressed (about the injury), I did not think that I would ever play football again, but I have to shut things like that out to feel like I could play football again,” Willingham said.
Despite his injury and end to his current football career, Willingham has no regrets about transferring to CCHS.
“I’m still happy I came to CCHS, the football team is still my family, things happen all through the day, and God knows what’s best,” Willingham said.