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Senior Profile: Fourth down comes way too soon
The last competitive down played by a high school football player can be fraught with emotions.
For the seniors who realize they have just ended their playing careers, tears often flow freely upon the realization that the bonds formed, lessons learned and even the bumps and bruises earned on the gridiron are soon to be a thing of the past.
For Dan Libbee, a senior at Corning Union High School, that final fourth down came early and abruptly, and sacked his senior season almost as soon as it had begun.
And it didn't happen on a football field, but in a doctor's office, as he received the news that his playing days were over.
"I had a torn labrum in my shoulder," Libbee explained. A labrum is a type of cartilage.
"I hurt (the shoulder) twice in the season. The first was an (anterior cruciate) separation, then in Week 3, I dislocated it from the socket and tore all the ligaments."
On Sept. 11 he went to the emergency room to have it popped back in because he thought it was just a dislocation.
"The doctor told me right there, 'You're done playing football,' and I started crying right there because my senior year was ruined. I started playing in eighth grade and fell in love with it my first day out there. I fell in love with it and knew it was what I wanted to play. I cried most of that night."
Libbee's right shoulder was surgically reconstructed, with all the ligaments held down with three screws.
Yet, there he was every Friday on the Cardinals' sideline proudly wearing his No. 66 jersey — for a time with his shoulder immobilized, but the injury never hampering his desire to be a part of his team and the game. Once the immobilizer came off, he would be the first onto the field with water during a timeout, or be the one waving the Cardinal flag.
Dealing with injuries during his high school career was nothing new to Libbee, who dealt with knee problems his freshman and junior seasons, along with three dislocated fingers.
"Every year I've played football I've hurt myself in some way," he said.
He has yet to recover full range of motion with the shoulder, but remains optimistic.
"I almost have full motion, but haven't started physical therapy. Some movements still cause pain," Libbee said.
While the Cardinals had a rough season - finishing 4-6 and going 1-4 in the Northern Athletic League - the toughest part of it for Libbee was having to watch it from the sideline and not from his position on the line.
His playing days may be over, but he knows his life is just in its preseason. Libbee intends to go to college to pursue degrees in geology and math, and is interested in attending the Colorado School of Mines, a state engineering university in Golden, Colo. that specializes in the geosciences.
"I'll probably have to go to a junior college to take a foreign language," he said. "My grades are good enough, a foreign language is the only requirement I haven't met."
Libbee is an avid reader who said he probably has six different books started and that he can usually remember everything he reads.
"I like Dean Koontz. His suspense is very entertaining and cool. I like books that challenge."
Having already faced the challenge of his senior year of football taken away, he shared the heartache with his teammates following their season-ending loss on Nov. 2 at West Valley.
"I told them, 'You may be crying now, but I did mine weeks ago when I found out my season was over.'"
One of Libbee's seasons may have ended, but the best ones are yet to come.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.