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Attacking the Long Road Ahead | By Hunter Henry

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So, this is obviously not the way I thought my season was going to go, and even right now it’s kind of hard to believe because it happened on a play I’ve run a million times.

I was just running a simple out route in May on the first day of OTAs. I ran a good route, beat my guy and made the catch. I cut up field and then it just happened.  I felt something weird that didn’t feel right, but I kept running.

That’s what is so weird. It wasn’t like everybody describes it where it’s some kind of excruciating pain or anything. It was different for me. It just felt a little off, which is why I kept running 50 yards down the field.

Then, after practice when the doctor did all the tests and we got the MRI results back, I was shocked.

A torn ACL.

I had so many emotions at the time, I didn’t really know how to react. This came out of nowhere, so I was a roller coaster of emotions. At first, I was upset and sad. Then, just mad. Why did this have to happen? It was a crazy day. And then the news broke, and it was a constant reminder over and over and over again.

I am only 23, and I knew this was just going to be a small part of my story, but that didn’t make it any easier. I knew that I had so much football left ahead of me, but that didn’t help.

I was in this deep valley.

I mean, deep, deep valley, where it can be a lot of darkness and you feel alone. You feel all these emotions you’ve never felt before. I’m a very positive guy. I don’t try to let that stuff in, but it still is there.

I snapped out of that quickly though because I had the biggest day of my life coming in just a few weeks.   

My wedding day.

So, right after the injury happened and I was getting ready for surgery, football wasn’t – surprisingly – really top of mind. My surgery took place a week after the injury, and just four weeks after that I was getting married. There was no way I was going to roll myself down the aisle.

I was going to do whatever it took to walk down the aisle to my bride….and that’s exactly what I did.

I actually had to start rehab the day after the injury.  It was hard, but I had getting ready for the wedding as my initial motivation. You set up little goals for yourself along the way, and this was a big first goal.

So I attacked rehab. I had my surgery on a Thursday, and then that weekend I started grinding away, working as hard as I could to meet that first goal.  

My fiancé and now wife, Parker – she is amazing. Man, if I didn’t have her, I don’t know what I would do. I’d be going crazy. She’s my rock throughout this whole thing and has helped me out a ton.

Being able to walk down the aisle at our wedding, that meant everything to me.

That was the biggest day of my life.

I thought about it all year, so I was not going to let the injury ruin it.

It was really important for me to show her, and really, I guess, show myself just how hard I could work to get to that point just a few weeks later. It really pushed me early on through what was the toughest part. The mental hurdles and the physical pain, those early days were absolutely the toughest.

But my wedding day…man, that was incredible.

It’s a feeling that only people who have been there can truly understand. It was just special. I’m not a huge emotional guy. I don’t really cry or any of that stuff, but seeing her walk down the aisle, I kind of lost it. I wasn’t hysterically crying, but I was filled with so many emotions that I’ve never really felt before. It was really special.

So, that is what pushed me early on in my rehab, but I’m still attacking it as hard as possible.

I come early in the morning and get right to work. We’ll do an extensive warmup with some exercises, a few squats and step ups and different things to start activating the muscles. Then we’ll go out on the field. I’m putting cleats on now, starting to cut and move around, and really starting to try to get my speed back. It’s coming along really well, and while I feel like I’m way ahead of the process of where I should be, I know I still have a long road ahead. 

The hardest part now is not my rehab, it’s actually watching the games.

It’s just the worst, to be honest. I hate it. It really puts everything into perspective. I’ve never had an injury like this. I had one last year at the end of the year where I missed a couple games, and that was hard, but it was different.

I miss the game so much. I didn’t get to do training camp. I don’t get to practice. I can’t play in the games. After this, I don’t think I’ll ever take this game for granted ever again.

Now while it is tough to watch and not be out there, don’t get me wrong, I still root like heck and love this team. But when something you love is taken away from you, you realize just how much you really care about it.

All I want to do is just be out there playing with the guys. To be in the locker room, go with the team on road trips and all that kind of stuff. I love it. Some people may think we do this for the fame and all that kind of stuff, but that’s not it at all. I love this game, and I love this team. To have it all taken away like this, it put things in perspective and reminds me why I fell in love with football when I was seven years old.

But I’m not just motivated to get back for the sake of being back. I’m motivated to get back and being an even better player.

I feel like I ended last year at a high level, and I was ready to take it to the next level. I was very excited about that. And now, to see how well this team is doing, just coming into this building every day and seeing the talent we have really pushes me. Honestly, it pushes me even more to want to get back to that level and be even better. I want to help this team win a championship, and I want to be out there on the field celebrating with the guys when we win.

So, this is what I’ve been up to the past few months. I can’t wait to get back out there, hear you all cheering and help this team win.

I have a long road ahead, but I’m continuing to attack the process every single day, trusting in God that this is his ultimate plan for me and that I’ll get back to my best.

Hunter

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The Los Angeles Chargers and Spectrum SportsNet are teaming up to deliver a new series, Backstage: Chargers presented by Toyota. The first behind-the-scenes documentary series about an NFL team to be aired in-season on a network, Backstage: Chargers takes viewers on a journey with the players, coaches and team personnel while providing exclusive access to the locker room, team meeting rooms, team plane and busses, sidelines and the field of play. With 30-minute episodes running every other week, viewers will witness first-hand the key moments and personalities that define a team, season and franchise – both on and off the field.

Backstage: Chargers access, however, doesn’t stop with the TV show. Under the Backstage: Chargers umbrella, Chargers.com will feature editorial stories that bring you inside the team in unparalleled ways all season long.

That includes first person stories written directly from the players themselves. Stay tuned throughout the year for more like Hunter Henry's.

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