Austin Pritchett is savoring every game he plays this season as a member of the Langley High football team. Pritchett, a senior linebacker and backup fullback for the Saxons, is back at full health following a left knee injury that forced him to miss the final seven games of the 2008 season.
“I feel like I’m back 100 percent,” said Pritchett, who suffered a torn ACL and partial MCL tear. “My doctor and [physical] therapist did a good job.”
The injury occurred in the first half of a week three game against Herndon last year. Upon coming off the field that night, Pritchett could not walk on his leg. Nevertheless, if it had been up to him, he would have returned to the game.
“I had so much adrenaline going I wanted to go back out there in the second half,” recalled Pritchett.
That, obviously, would have been a mistake and Pritchett is now thankful the team’s medical personnel would not allow it. For the next seven months, Pritchett worked on rehabilitating the knee three or four times a week. Running and movement exercises helped build the knee’s strength up again. Pritchett said swelling to the knee continued throughout his rehab. Even now he still experiences swelling at times.
“He worked very hard to recover,” said Langley coach John Howerton, who said Pritchett was leading the Saxons in tackles at the time of his injury last year. “He did everything he had to do in rehabilitation.”
Pritchett, according to Howerton, is having an outstanding senior season for a Langley team that is struggling at 0-4.
“So far, so good,” said Howerton, of Pritchett’s good health and strong overall play. “He’s having a very good year. That used to be a career-ending injury.”
Pritchett, from his inside linebacker position, lets his playing do the talking when he is out on the field.
“He’s a no-nonsense kid,” said Howerton. “He’s a good leader and a team captain, and he’s handled adversity well. He’s a very hard-nosed kid. In my eyes he’s a team leader. He doesn’t go around saying a lot, but he does everything you ask him to. He’s tough, smart and extremely coachable.”
<b>PRITCHETT</b> grew up playing within the McLean Mustangs’ youth football program. During the fall of his ninth grade year, he was part of a Langley High freshmen team that went 8-0.
“We dominated every game,” said Pritchett, of that freshmen team’s success. “That was the funnest time of my life.”
The following year he played for the Langley JV squad, but also dressed out for the varsity games.
Then his junior year, he had earned a varsity starting role and was becoming a defensive force before being set back by the knee injury. At about that same time, Austin’s older brother, senior quarterback Danny, was also out of the line-up with a serious ankle injury.
“It was really frustrating,” recalled Austin. “We both had surgery the same week and missed school for a week. It was kind of demoralizing because we’d both been playing football for 10 years. I missed playing with my brother.”
Danny came back fairly soon following his injury and led the Saxons to a 5-5 record. He currently is playing a tightend position at Randolph Macon College (Ashland, Va.).
Austin Pritchett, an excellent student in the classroom, wants to simply remain healthy and help a younger Saxons’ football team earn a few football wins this autumn.
“We’ve been working hard in practice since August,” said Pritchett. “We’ll keep working hard. We’ve been in all our games.”
Pritchett is the kind of player coach’s love having on their roster.
“Austin’s the kind of player you love to have in your program,” said Howerton. “He’s dependable and you can trust him. He’s a kid that has had to go through a lot to be where he is. He’s the epitome of what you want from a player in a program.”