Published: October 31, 2013
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Senior football players Quinn Karam and Joe Murray have each overcome a lot to return to the Abington Heights lineup.
So when the duo lined up as the starting backfield in the Comets' recent 42-7 win over West Scranton, it marked a milestone that started with a lot of bad luck and ended up being a show of modern medicine and old-fashioned desire and work ethic.
After seeing Karam run for 185 yards and Murray reach the end zone on a scoring pass against the Invaders, it might have been hard to believe that a year ago, both were on the comeback trail after injuries to their left knees.
Against Valley View last year, Karam tore his anterior cruciate ligament, ruining what he hoped would have been a great junior season. Undaunted, the fullback/linebacker was sidetracked by the injury, knowing full well how difficult the task of rehabilitation would be.
"They told me I could play if I worked hard," Karam said. "It's a tough injury to come back from."
Going too hard too soon is one of the hurdles athletes have to worry about during rehabilitation and Karam made sure not to overdo it.
"It's a lot of work. The muscles in the leg stop working, so it's almost like starting from scratch," Karam said. "People try to come back too soon - they try to strengthen the leg first, before it's ready to handle what it needs to handle."
He only needed to look at his teammate to see what could happen if an athletes strives for too much, too soon. Murray's journey back to the football field took an extra year because of that.
"I tried to come back a little too early," Murray said. "I had it scoped to clean it out."
As a sophomore, Murray tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee. He desperately wanted to play his junior season; but his knee never got right and it was a year of frustration for Murray.
"I suited up, but felt I wasn't ready," Murray said. "I constantly had to have the knee drained and spent a lot of time with the trainer to rehab it."
With his junior football season shot, Murray looked ahead at what was left - his senior football season, and he intended to prepare for that with all he had. Fortunately, Karam's injury left him in a similar situation to Murray, so the comeback trail wouldn't be traveled alone.
"The big thing was I didn't want to go through [rehab] again and sit out again," Murray said. "In my mind, I wanted to take time to come back. Now I'm 100 percent."
Months of recovery and rehabilitation were on the calendar for both Karam and Murray, a pair of patients hoping for the best but never certain that their dreams of getting back on the football field could be accomplished. At least now, each had another person to bounce their frustration and anger off of, as well as to share in the good times of having gotten through another session of rehabilitation.
"Quinn and I talked a lot about our progress. I could relate to his injury," Murray said. "There was a period of time where we were seeing the same doctor."
With all the similarities, it was only natural that they would rehab together, ready to pick up one another if either was having a bad day.
"We pushed each other to get through rehab," Murray said.
"We helped each other out. We both had injuries to come back from," Karam said. "We were rehabbing at the same time, so we worked out together. Now we're pretty close."
After a long winter, spring and summer of rehabilitation, both backs got good news late in July. Each had recovered sufficiently that each was given the okay to resume playing football again. Needless to say, both Karam and Murray were overjoyed.
"It was nine or 10 months, just before two-a-days," said Karam, referring to the beginning of official practice in August. "That's when I realized I was actually going to play football. It kind of snapped into place in my mind."
"I finally got cleared in late July," Murray said. "We had rehabbed together, and came back around the same time."
Karam, who wanted to come back as a two-way player, was concerned about the recurrence of pain after going nearly a full year with getting hit, or doing the hitting himself. Once he got over the fear of contact, he discovered that his body was prepared to play.
"I feel 100 percent better. I expected some soreness, but there was no point where I was scared or waiting for something bad to happen," Karam said. "It's amazing. I hoped that I would be able to get back on the field, and when I did, I felt ready to play. I feel I'm back, with confidence. I'm not scared to make a cut or get hit. I know if you come back scared, there's a greater chance of getting hurt again."
As a starter at fullback and linebacker, Karam was getting all the action he wanted, but Murray's comeback hit another hurdle. Another bump to his knee left him to wondering about his chances of getting back on the field yet again.
"It was a weird situation. I could feel my kneecap lock up," Murray said. "I sat for a couple plays, and it was running through my mind - 'what do I do now?'
"I went back in the game and felt decent, but after the game and the next morning, I wondered if this third injury was going to end my career. All of this was running through my mind."
Some swelling occurred because of what Murray thought was because of blood, he was out a week just to be on the safe side.
He has returned, and getting into the end zone against West added to his return from the injury that cost him his junior season.
Karam's recovery from his injury has given him a renewed excitement about another sport he used to play before football became his passion. In part because of his rehab, the senior said he plans to try out for the tennis team in the spring, after having participated in track and field as his spring sport as a freshman and sophomore.
"It's a different pace," Karam said with a laugh. "I played tennis when I was younger, and enjoyed it, but as I got older, my focus was on football. I needed some agility training, to help my knee rehabilitate. I'm going to try to have some fun."
There was a lot of fun for both Karam and Murray, when their solid play played a big part in the Comets' 35-point win over West Scranton a week after suffering their first loss of the season.
But more importantly, it continued to show the progress both have made from serious knee injuries.