The injury that nearly cost Austin Woods his left arm was so gruesome, a grown man passed out at the sight.
Now a senior at Fife High School, Woods put his left arm through a window March 1 at Auburn High while chasing a basketball out of bounds during a regional game against Anacortes. He severed all the tendons and ligaments in his forearm, cut his biceps muscle in half, and opened a gaping hole near his elbow.
At 1 p.m. Saturday against Shadle Park in Spokane, after countless hours in rehabilitation, Woods will put on a Trojans uniform for the first time since that fateful day. He brings with him the scars that are a constant reminder to an injury that not only could have have cost him his arm, but also his life.
“At first, I was kind of shook about it,” Woods said. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was sad and down on myself. At some point it hit me; it was like, ‘I got to fight through this and come back and prove everyone wrong.’ ”
He is certainly accomplishing that, returning to play football more than a month sooner than doctors expected. And he returns a changed player, and not just because of the scars lining his arm.
“I have a different understanding of the game now,” Woods said. “I’m really grateful. Before, I just kind of played. I had to work to get back — the most I ever worked in my life. So, I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound running back and defensive back has big plans for his senior year, including running track for the first time in the spring.
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” his mom, Lisa, said. “It is a miracle that he is even on the field this soon. I didn’t anticipate him playing any football this year. He is a very driven kid. He’s going to do his best. He wants to go out at Fife with a great record.”
His teammates and coaches never expected anything less from Woods.
“He is hard-working kid. He has heart and determination,” Fife football coach Kent Nevin said. “He looked me in the eye and told me, ‘We are doing this, Coach.’ And by God, we are doing it.”
While Woods has been cleared to play by doctors, he is still building arm strength. He wore a cast after the injury and was unable to lift weights, though he was able to work on his endurance.
“It is crazy that he has all his motion back,” teammate Khyri Edwards said. “The fact that happened in March and (he) can already be recovered. It is crazy.”
Edwards was on the court the day of Woods’ injury and still remembers the chaos of the moment, which sent trainers and coaches running toward the action, and fans recoiling from it.
“You hear the glass shatter and you are like, what was that?” he said. “He took a couple of steps, looks at his arm and eyes wide open drops to the ground. Refs calling whistles to stop the game, don’t really know what is going on, you see blood everywhere and you start freaking out.
“From then on, all you can do is pray everything is going well.”
Fife basketball coach Mark Schelbert was one of the first to reach Woods, though at the time he didn’t know how severe the injury was. The next day, after Woods had three surgeries, it became clear.
“The perspective, obviously, is he is more important than basketball,” Schelbert said. “Making sure he can function as an adult and as a young kid. That is what you think about. I think he is pretty fortunate in a lot of ways to gain mobility back.”
Now, Woods is ready to put it all in the past and play some football.
“I’m coming to play with no worries,” Woods said. “I’m just coming with a blank mind. To play how I always played.”