What’s pushed to the forefront of sports are all the stories of success and achievement. The championship teams, the athletes with tons of accolades, coaches that have built programs from the ground up and so on. Each of the above provide their own source of motivation and inspiration. However, the best sports stories are those of perseverance. The athletes or teams that were faced with adversity and worked relentlessly to overcome the obstacles that stood between them and their goal. Who better to root for than the one that’s seen the deepest of lows yet they still remain?
Josh Riollano senior linebacker at Kearny high school has overcome situations, throughout his high school football career, that would force most to tap out. Moving to San Diego from North Carolina as a sophomore, Josh stood out as a linebacker on varsity for the Komets. Josh even earned all City league his sophomore season. He was expected to be an anchor on their varsity defense the following year.
(Josh during his photo shoot)
However, just before his junior season began Josh was forced to sit the entire season with a fracture in his foot. From there Josh’s luck continued to get worse. In the spring of his junior year, during the 7v7 season, Josh was forced to sit again with another injury. The injury was not foot related but suffering back to back injuries definitely had more of a mental affect than physical. Nonetheless, Josh once again worked his way back to the field to be ready to go for his senior season.
Entering this season as a senior Josh re-injured the same foot in a fluke accident a week before fall camp started. A similar injury to the one suffered his junior year it looked like Josh would miss another season.
“The injuries made me feel bad. It was hard seeing my team go on without me and doing their thing while I was out my junior year. Seeing them go 11-2, falling short in the CIF and knowing things might have been different if I could be there to help took a toll on me. I just wished I could do more. Then re-injuring my foot before the year started was devastating. It was hard to stay motivated,” explains Josh.
Faced with injury once again, Josh refused to be sidelined another year and decided to give it his all rehabbing so he could return his senior season and help his teammates on the field.
“I had people create doubt by suggesting playing football may not be for me. I also had others support my efforts to return by providing words of encouragement. I ultimately used the doubt as a source of motivation and decided not to give up. I adopted the motto of “one more rep” in rehab. If my trainer told me to do 12 reps, I would say no I’m doing 20, if he said do 15, I would do 25. I kept telling myself to do more than what he wants you to do. I would do that at home as well. After rehab I would go home and do other things because I needed to make sure I would be back. I wanted my foot to get stronger as quick as possible to guarantee I’d be back,” shares Josh.
While working hard to ensure his return Josh stayed close to the football team and became a vocal leader at practice and in the locker room.
“I worked with the linebackers and tried to lead and help them improve as best I can. The linebacker’s coach was my coach sophomore year so he’s familiar with my capabilities and he’s the coach that knew and trusted me to help the other backers out. So, I try and motivate the guys and set goals for them to help them get better.”
The rehab process was not an individual process, Josh credit’s some of his coaches for continuing to push him when he felt like throwing in the towel.
“Coach V has kept me close and involved by calling and checking on me. He always asks where am I and tells me that I’m the heart of the team and how much they need me. Coach Gray as well. When I was at my lowest point and wanted to quit, Coach Gray helped me and motivated me to keep on going. My coaches have really helped me out a lot.”
Through all the turmoil, heartache, ups and downs, and being sidelined 3 months Josh’s hard work has paid off. Two weeks ago, Josh was cleared to return to action and is set to make his season debut against Patrick Henry. With his foot healthy and strong and finally at 100% Josh is grateful but eager to be back on the field.
“[Being cleared and returning] feels great. I’ve been waiting for a long time now to do what I love to do most and I’ve been appreciating every moment of it,” explains Josh with excitement about his return.
Josh Riollano has overcome a lot of adversity in such an early point of his athletic career. Having to sit out the entire junior year and three months of the senior season because of injury, would cause most kids to walk away from the game. But not Josh. He’s built from a different cloth. His mental and physical strength has allowed him to stay the course and persevere through the toughest of times. With all the hard work his put in to get back to the game he loves Josh finally gets to enjoy the fruit of his labor.
By Dimetris Hasley