Return game

Gaels receiver Alex Carroll strives to rebound from a devastating injury

Third-year Gaels wide receiver Alex Carroll tore his ACL on a kickoff return on Nov. 3 in Guelph. After undergoing reconstructive surgery seven weeks ago, he’s aiming to return for Queen’s first regular season game on Aug. 25.
Third-year Gaels wide receiver Alex Carroll tore his ACL on a kickoff return on Nov. 3 in Guelph. After undergoing reconstructive surgery seven weeks ago, he’s aiming to return for Queen’s first regular season game on Aug. 25.
Carroll has four touchdowns in 20 career OUA games, including a 79-yard punt return against York in the 2012 season opener.
Carroll has four touchdowns in 20 career OUA games, including a 79-yard punt return against York in the 2012 season opener.
Photo: 

It starts in a dark room.

Third-year Gaels wide receiver Alex Carroll stares solemnly into the camera. He talks over a progression of piano chords echoing in the background. His voice is shaken, but determined.

He’s nearly three weeks removed from a devastating knee injury, facing major reconstructive surgery and months of rehabilitation.

“I’ve been dreading that kind of injury my whole football career,” Carroll said in the nine-minute video, uploaded to YouTube on Nov. 22. “It was definitely tough — those first few moments when you realize it’s all happening.

“Afterwards, you sort of realize that these are the cards you’ve been dealt, so you just have to move forward with what you’ve got.”

The video is the first in a series of four, recorded in the months following Nov. 3 — the day Carroll tore his ACL, lateral meniscus and medial meniscus in a playoff game against the Guelph Gryphons.

After catching a second-quarter kickoff, Carroll ran 14 yards upfield, dug his right foot into the turf — and felt his knee give out.

“I’ve watched it on film a bunch of times, and it almost looks like a nothing play,” Carroll said earlier this week. “Whether it was a twisting motion or whatever, as soon as my cleat stuck in the ground, my knee just popped, and I was down.”

Four and a half months removed from the runback in Guelph, Carroll is back on his feet — but the recovery is just beginning.

He underwent surgery on Jan. 23, starting a rigorous rehabilitation process that typically takes eight months to complete.

Queen’s first regular season game of 2013 is scheduled for Aug. 25 — just over seven months after the operation.

“It’s frustrating because it’s such a slow process, but in the grand scheme of things, the season is still a long way away,” Carroll said, adding that his rehab is already two weeks ahead of schedule.

“I feel like if I just keep working hard, everything’s going to fall into place.”

After spending an idle month on crutches after surgery, getting his knee back to game shape is Carroll’s top priority.

So far, he’s returned to the weight room and started running in water, performing basic exercises to restore quad strength. He hopes to start jogging in the coming weeks.

“Part of me wants to just get after it and do everything, but you have to hold yourself back a bit, since it’s sort of a dangerous stage in the rehab,” he said. “I’m [following instructions], but trying to progress as quickly as I can.”

Carroll is hoping that his comeback will coincide with a resurgent year for Gaels football as a whole. His injury occurred early on in a 42-39 overtime loss to Guelph, sealing Queen’s premature exit from the playoffs.

After falling in two consecutive OUA semifinals, nothing less than a conference championship will suffice.

“It’s pretty much Yates or bust for us,” Carroll said. “We’ve kind of underachieved to what I think we’ve been capable of these past few years. It seems like the guys that really want to get it done are stepping into those leadership roles.”

That ambition is evident in the most recent additions to Carroll’s video log. In a clip posted on Jan. 28, five days after surgery, he smiles to the camera, outlining the first rudimentary steps of his return to football.

Carroll’s latest video, dated Feb. 25, is mostly upbeat. A steady drum riff has replaced the forlorn piano. He speaks at length about the mechanics of his injury and the road ahead.

“I still have a lot to prove as a football player,” he said. “With every great setback, there’s a chance for a great comeback.”

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.