Injured linebacker strives to play again
Peter Dowd, Contributing Writer
November 22, 2011
Strength, determination and perseverance can all be used to describe Austin Shull. Shull has overcome adversity and blossomed into not only a highly regarded scholar, but also a decorated football star. His dreams were almost crushed in high school and yet again at SRJC, however, through hard work he has realized his dream and strives everyday to accomplish it.
Shull was born at Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa to parents Susie and Brian Shull, and has one older brother. Shull’s parents wanted to channel his vast energy into something positive and signed him up for pop-warner football at age 11. He began playing linebacker and fell in love with both the game and the position.
When he began playing at Montgomery High School, he started on the junior varsity team, but quickly rose through the rankings. By the end of his freshman year, he was playing for the varsity squad. Throughout his high school career, he continued to be one of the top players on the team.
Shull exemplifies how a student athlete should approach academics. Besides excelling on the field, he also shined in the classroom. He ended his high school career with a 3.67 GPA and received scholarship offers from Sacramento State and San Jose State to play football, but a devastating knee injury put those plans on hold.
It was the second to last game before the playoffs during his senior year when the injury occurred. Montgomery was playing Ukiah in a league game and Shull was pursuing the opposing running back when one of his own teammates ran into his leg while it was planted.
“It was like it was in slow motion and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Shull said. After the play, Shull laid motionless on the field. His ACL and MCL were torn, and it seemed his football career was over.
Instead of attempting to rehab his knee after high school, he decided to move to Butte County and attend the Butte Fire Academy. “The only other thing I could see myself doing except playing football would be a fire fighter. Ever since I was a child I looked up to my dad who was a firefighter,” Shull said.
After only five months in the academy the football itch was too much to resist, so he began the long process of rehabbing his knee and getting back into football shape. “Even a couple months without football was almost too much to take,” Shull said.
During the rest of the 2010 winter, Shull endured countless hours of physical therapy and by the 2011 summer, he was able to become football fit once again. When the 2011 SRJC football season began, Shull was the starting linebacker.
In the opening game of the season, Shull was on the kickoff coverage team. As he ran to cover the kick he planted his foot awkwardly and tore his ACL for the second time. Shull recalled having the thought “Oh god, not again.”
His dream looked like it was crushed again. Confused, hurt and angry Shull recalls being carted off the field thinking “Why me?” It was time for him to contemplate retirement from the sport he loved.
Shull had a decision to make: he could completely abandon the sport he loved or go through the hellish process of rehabbing his knee again. With support from his parents, Shull decided to go through rehab.
“I saw what life was like without football and I couldn’t go through with it,” Shull said. As soon as doctors allowed Shull to begin rehabbing his knee, he was at it. “It’s going to be a long journey, and this might be the last shot for me.”
The SRJC football season ended on Nov. 12. Shull was disappointed to see the season end without him on the field, but did not get discouraged and continues to gear up for next season.
Since his injury occurred early in the season Shull did not give up a year of eligibility to play JC football. He plans to continue playing linebacker next year and come back faster and stronger than ever. When the SRJC football season starts next year, count on Shull leading the defense out onto the field.