In a perfect world, Alex Bragg would be a wanted man.
The Lakeside High School senior would now be sifting through scholarship offers from countless college football programs. He would be counting the days till Feb. 4, when he would be putting pen to paper on National Signing Day.
Bragg began to tap his potential during his sophomore season at Lakeside. He was selected as the all-region tight end, and that was quite an achievement in Region 3-AAAA, which produced the Class AAAA state champion that year.
However, there's one thing Bragg has learned from a lifetime of athletic competition - there's no such thing as a perfect world.
A knee injury was the first setback. A torn anterior cruciate ligament sidelined Bragg for the last two football games of his junior year.
Then things got worse.
As a starting defensive end and tight end, Bragg was playing a major role in Lakeside's football resurgence last fall; but in a game against Hephzibah, Bragg took a helmet to the left knee, the same one that had caused him previous problems.
The hit broke a bone fragment loose in Bragg's knee. His prep football career was over.
"Just sitting on the bench was pretty horrible," he said. "I missed the last three games of my senior season. That would be hard for anybody."
Bragg admits there were times when he cursed his fate, especially when he spent six weeks on crutches, hobbling the halls at Lakeside.
There's also no joy in sitting on the sidelines of Lakeside basketball games, because Bragg believes he could have been on the court assisting his teammates.
"There are times when I wanted to just tape up my knee and go out there and play," he said. "I think in some areas I definitely could have helped the team, but I wasn't able to."
If the injury had not occurred, Bragg would have been the starting center for the Panthers. Instead, the 6-foot-6, 232-pound player has yet to suit up this season.
Also, if Bragg had been injury-free during his entire high-school career, college football coaches would be pounding down his door.
Still, Bragg has weathered the hard times, and he won't forget the advice from his father, Darrell. "My dad always told me to be the best athlete I could be."
Alex Bragg lives by those words, and he's not about to dwell on the past.
"The thing about it is, you can't get down about it and say, 'Why has this happened to me?' You just take it in stride and go with it."
Bragg has been upbeat through the weeks of rehabilitation, and through the disappointments. He's not thinking about what might have been, but rather of what's to come.
"His attitude is real good, and he's been working hard to get better," Lakeside football coach and athletic director Randy Hill said. "He's going to be 100 percent."
Pending doctor's approval, Bragg expects to be back on the basketball court this week. The Panthers picked up a big region win over Cross Creek last week, and with Bragg coming back, Lakeside could get a lift during the season's stretch run.
"I'd love for him to be able to step right in and help us," Lakeside basketball coach Richie Carnes said. "It depends on him and how much he's willing to work."
Bragg may not be in basketball shape right now, but his heart's certainly ready for a return.
"I'm just going to play as hard as I can. There's no point in holding back now," he said. "This team could really do some damage in the playoffs. We have such a good program going right now. I hope I can contribute to that."
Despite the knee problems, there also is college football in his future.
"He's had a lot of small schools contact him," Hill said. "The coaches that I've talked to haven't said much about the injury. They've seen him in game films, they like his size, and they realize what he's done in rehab."
Bragg plans to visit some colleges this month, and he has been offered preferred walk-on status at Georgia Southern University. He insists he'll be ready to play at the next level.
"I'll recover 100 percent by the time signing day comes around. No doubt about it," he said.
Bragg can't recover the lost time at Lakeside, and that's a message he'd like to share with other athletes.
"The thing this tells me is you can't wait for something to happen. You've got to go out and take advantage of whatever playing time you've got," he said. "You don't know if you're going to get hurt, so you have to make the most of every minute."
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