By Maurice Patton
For Franklin Walker, a bad Friday night got worse Monday afternoon.
The Columbia Academy senior learned that the knee injury he sustained during the Bulldogs’ 21-6 Division II-A West Region loss at Nashville Christian would end his season – and thus, his high school gridiron career.
“It was not a good day,” Walker said hours after receiving the news from team doctor Cason Shirley, following an MRI earlier that revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
After getting the start at quarterback Friday in the absence of junior Bryant Beranek, Walker said he felt or heard his knee “snap” on two different occasions during the contest.
“I was really hurting. I took about 1500 (milligrams) of pain pills – which my mom was very mad about,” he said. “I kept going back in the game. On the play I threw an interception, I heard it snap. I kept playing. On one of my runs, I kinda tackled myself. I heard it pop.”
One of Maury County’s top offensive performers a year ago, both Walker and the Bulldogs had struggled to get going this fall. Columbia Academy fell to 0-4 (0-2) with Friday’s loss and will have to wait a couple of weeks to try to snap the skid as football activities were suspended Monday once veteran coach Charlie Lansdell was hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms.
“He’s a dynamic playmaker,” CA offensive coordinator Seth Anderson said. “He’s obviously played different positions for us, and he’s been explosive at all of them. He started at quarterback and he had 120-plus (offensive) yards with one week of practice. He’s an all-around, do-it-all guy; losing him definitely leaves a hole somebody’s going to have to step in and fill.
“He got hurt the opening drive of the second half, he knew his knee was hurting but he didn’t know the extent of it. Being the competitor he is, the team-first guy he is, he wanted to go out and play through it, so credit him for trying to play through it.”
After producing more than 1,000 rushing and receiving yards and scoring eight offensive touchdowns as a junior, Walker was a key member of the Bulldogs’ basketball rotation last winter. Expected to miss as many as six months following his Sept. 29 surgery, his chances of getting back to the hardwood are iffy at best.
“He’s been so excited about this year, both football and basketball,” CA basketball coach Marty DeJarnette said. “He went limping off once or twice and kept coming back. He’s one of those guys that wants to be a part of it, do what he can for his team and his teammates. He’s got one of those warrior-type mentalities that he’s going to give it everything he’s got until they tell him he can’t anymore.
“It’s a heartbreaker. It’s always rough when you know it’s their last go at it. It’s a shame. But he has a great perspective on things. He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever been around, from a coaching standpoint. He’ll turn it into something positive, something we can all benefit from at some point.”
For now, though, with so much uncertainty elsewhere, an injury wasn’t the circumstance Walker expected to bring his senior season to a premature end.
After missing upcoming games against University School of Jackson and Jackson Christian, Columbia Academy is expected to resume play — without Walker — Oct. 9 at Trinity Christian.
“I was really looking forward to just playing,” he said. “We got lucky enough to be able to play. Now I can’t.”