“It’s a broken leg, it’s supposed to hurt.”
That’s what went through Ryan Jones’ mind in the weeks after fracturing his right tibia and dislocating his kneecap during basketball practice last November, a time when pain never left him alone and late night drives to the hospital for morphine shots became commonplace. It wasn’t until more than a month later that doctors realized what had happened. The cast had been set too tight, cutting off circulation and killing muscles in his right calf. The prognosis for Jones, a standout football and basketball player at Riordan, was that he might not be able to walk again.
“That was devastating, one of the toughest days I’ve had,” said Jones, now a junior. “It’s hard to be left out when you’re used to being active and in the middle of everything.”
So Jones watched from the sideline, first in a wheelchair as older brother Robert Jones led the Crusaders to a share of the West Catholic Athletic League championship and later on crutches as the team advanced deep in the Central Coast Section playoffs and onto NorCals. He was using a cane by the end of the school year and was able to limp through some summer workouts with the football team.
And on Monday, the one-year anniversary of the initial injury, Jones celebrated with the mundane. After starting every game for the Crusaders this season, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive lineman went through another practice as Riordan (8-3-1) prepares for Saturday’s 7 p.m. CCS Medium School Division final against No. 2 Live Oak (8-4) at San Jose City College.
“It went from being concerned about him ever walking again to thinking maybe he’ll be ready to go as a senior,” Cruaders coach Mike Langridge said. “And then he comes back and not only does he play this season, but he’s a significant player for us.”
Jones has definitely been more than just a feel-good story for a Riordan team looking to win the first CCS football title in school history. He led the Crusaders in sacks with six, selflessly occupied double-teams to free up others to make plays and motivated his teammates to maximize their potential.
“Ryan coming back really pumped us up because we saw how badly he wanted to play and be a part of this,” Riordan wide receiver-defensive back Daniel Cannon said. “I was there when he got hurt and remember seeing him in that wheelchair. And to see him now is amazing.”
Ryan’s father, Jim Jones Jr., has grown accustomed to watching his sons excelat Riordan after Robert (now on a basketball scholarship at San Diego) dominated opponents on his way to becoming a two-time Examiner boys’ basketball Player of the Year. But he said nothing compared to seeing Ryan play in Riordan’s Sept. 31 opener against Archbishop Murphy (Wash.) in Las Vegas.
“The goal was for him to walk off the stage at graduation, so you know how much it means to me to see him running on that field,” Jones Jr. said. “There’s been so much press about Rob, but to me Ryan’s the story of our family.”
Even now, the recovery still isn’t totally complete. Ryan Jones, who described the first steps of his rehabilitation as “walking in the dark,” said he is at about 85 percent of what he was, and doctors say he may not regain full strength for another two years, if ever. Not that Live Oak is likely to notice Saturday.
“The CCS championship game is huge, and we can’t wait,” Jones said. “We’ve worked all season for this, and we deserve it.”
CCS Medium School championship
at San Jose City College, 7 p.m.
» SATURDAY: No. 1 Riordan (8-3-1) vs. No. 2 Live Oak (8-4), 7 p.m.