Jeffrey Rice suffered what, in the professional ranks, is often considered a career death sentence.
Evans High School's football team was on its way to a win against Statesboro and a 6-0 start, but Rice, a Knights defensive back, wouldn't finish the game.
The ball was loose on the ground after a Statesboro fumble, and a free-for-all ensued. Rice focused on the ball and went after it, not seeing the Blue Devils defender who delivered a crushing blow to the side of Rice's left knee.
That was October, and Rice, who started as Evans' shortstop on the baseball team his sophomore year, had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.
"Initial reaction was 'uh-oh,' " Knights baseball coach Ricky Beale said. "After the emotion sort of settled back down after that win, I started thinking, 'Who do I throw over there at short?' "
Rice underwent surgery at the beginning of November to repair the torn ligament. His doctor at Augusta Orthopedics Specialists told him it would be seven to eight months before he could play sports again, and that full recovery would require at least a year to 14 months.
Rice went to work.
Physical therapy sessions devoured three afternoons a week. Rice spent the rest of his free time working out with the school's trainer and watching the Knights football team finish with its best-ever record and a state playoff berth.
"My main focus was on baseball," Rice said, "because I knew football was done for the year."
Less than four months after his injury, and four days before baseball practice began, Rice was cleared to play.
"They were very surprised," Rice said of his doctors' reaction to his speedy recovery. "I wasn't as surprised as them, because I had the determination."
Beale allowed Rice only to run straight lines when practice first started. The shortstop didn't run bases until the Knights opened the season at Cross Creek.
Since then, Rice has returned to his spot at shortstop and anchored the Knights clean-up spot in the batting order.
He pulled a muscle in his throwing arm during a 22-degree night game at Burke County this past week. The injury kept him off the field, but he remained in his lineup spot as designated hitter.
Rice struggled against Lee County on Friday, striking out three times with a walk. He turned it around Saturday, though, driving in two runs and scoring twice during a loss to South Effingham.
Rice received a scare after crossing the plate the first time Saturday. A muscle felt tight behind his knee, and he retreated to the Knights' clubhouse for a second opinion.
Rice received a positive diagnosis and hasn't suffered any other setbacks, though he says he's still around 90 percent.
"He did everything he had to as far as trying to get back," Beale said. "He really wants to play and he gives it everything he's got."
Rice hopes his athleticism allows him to play Division I baseball some day. But Beale said college coaches have found it easy to overlook the 5-foot 7-inch Rice because of his size.
"They don't take into account his character and heart," Beale said.
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