Sleepy Eye St. Mary's graduate Chad Mathiowetz didn't realize how badly injured he was until he tried to get up and return to the field after colliding with an opposing quarterback.
"I was shadowing the quarterback who was rolling out," Mathiowetz said. "He scrambled so I was going to tackle him head on along the sideline. One of my teammates trailing him dove for the quarterback's legs when I planted my foot to initiate a hit."
A diving teammate hit Mathiowetz's planted leg just below the knee, shattering the tibia in several places.
Feeling more adrenaline than pain, Mathiowetz quickly got up and tried jogging back to the field, took a step on the injured leg and collapsed.
"That one step caused the bottom of my fibula to snap off below the ankle," Mathiowetz said.
He was taken by ambulance to an Alexandria hospital where 13 steel screws and a steel plate were surgically implanted in his leg to reconstruct it. The injury may have been career-ending for some players.
University of Minnesota Morris defensive back and punt returner Chad Mathiowetz of Sleepy Eye overcame a football injury in September 2011 that broke his (ankle) tibia and fibula, requiring 13 steel screws and a steel plate to be surgically implanted in his leg for an award-winning season last fall.
Mathiowetz said the screws and plate do not set off metal detectors at airports.
A senior this year at UM Morris, Mathiowetz returned to the football field and was credited with 40 tackles, two interceptions, returned punts with a 9.7 yard average that was third-best in the UMAC and 48th in the nation.
A business management major, Mathiowetz was named to the All-UMAC second team as a punt returner, all-conference for sportsmanship and received the Cougar Pride Award for doing whatever coaches asked him to do on and off the field.
Rehabilitation began with daily heat baths, stretching, Thera band strengthening and icing for about a month. After he was cleared to put pressure on the leg, Mathiowetz had heat baths, stretching and walking forward and backward, followed by icing, for another month.
Graston Technique chiropractic visits for about 10 months helped replace scar tissue with new muscle, followed by a balance board and ensuring bones and tendons were in their proper places. Lack of motion and range can result if bones are not in the right place, Mathiowetz said.
As his strength returned, Mathiowetz lifted weights and continued other football-team workouts.
Five foot, seven inches tall and weighing 150 pounds, Mathiowetz said he has about 95 of his mobility back after the injury, surgery and rehabilitation.