Hooper looks to future after knee injury

Story by Mary Faith Covey

Starting defensive end on varsity, with a full ride scholarship to Rice for football, and hopes to be drafted into the NFL, senior Edwin Hooper seemed to have life planned out. Everything was falling into place until Oct. 15, when it all came crashing down. He was forced to imagine life without being able to play the game he loved.

“A guy cut blocked me during the game, and he hit the side of my knee with his helmet,” Hooper said. “It dislocated my patella and tore three out of the four ligaments in my knee.”

With his future riding on his ability to play football, Hooper’s mind jumped straight to the worst case scenario.

“The first thing I thought when it happened was I wasn’t going to be able to play again,” Hooper said. “When I first saw the doctor, I asked him If I would be able to, and he said it wasn’t likely.”

Hooper was at a loss for words. His plans were starting to fall apart.

“After the doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to play again, I was really sad. I just sat there thinking, and I started worrying about how I was gonna pay for college,” Hooper said. “I didn’t think I could do anything but play football.”

The injury was so serious, that Hooper was transported immediately to the hospital before the game  ended.

“I was at the hospital for three days and two nights,” Hooper said. “The first night and morning, I spent most of my time getting different x-rays on my leg.”

While Hooper was in the hospital, a lot of his friends and family came to visit him.

“The night of the game, I had about 10 of my teammates come from the school and stay with me until about 2:30 a.m.,” Hooper said. “ It meant a lot to me for all of my friends to come see me. ”

Senior varsity teammate Josh Bryant was one of the first people to visit Hooper in the hospital.

“When I walked in, I saw Coach Harrell and was wondering where everyone else was,” Bryant said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Come on.’ I walked down the hall and saw Edwin in the wheelchair.

When I saw him, I felt so sad. I felt like I should have been in that wheelchair, and he should still play. He had so many offers and so much talent. It made me think a lot about life, not only football. I still get choked up every time I see him in that wheelchair.”

Fellow senior Barry Beam, who is also one of Hooper’s best friends, followed soon after Bryant.

“Edwin was getting his MRI done when I got there. When he came back into the room, I just sat there and didn’t say a word,” Beam said. “The thing is, I’ve never seen him so upset. He pretty much lived, breathed and slept football for as long as I could remember. To see him so silent, even somebody like me, a person who shows no emotions, needed a few seconds to gather myself and find the right words to say.”

Hooper worried about his future for a while, but soon the light at the end of the tunnel became visible.

“When I got my test results back, the doctor said I would be able to come back, but it would take a lot of work and about a year of therapy,” Hooper said. “I was excited. I just knew that I would have to work hard for me to be able to do rehab and comeback.”

After hearing the good news, Hooper had a few distractions from his injury from some friends.

“I told him, ‘Me and you are gonna get through this together,’ and we just started talking about how much hard work we had put in, and how it’s all about over,” said senior teammate Logan Preston, who also received an injury due to football. “Ed kept asking me to sneak him out, so we could go get some food and watch a movie with all our friends.”

Preston wasn’t able to get that done, but help was on the way in the form of more friends.

“Kara and I went there to give him a present with just a bunch of toys for him to play with,” senior Danieya High said. “Then later that night I went back up there to see him and he had colored half of the coloring book we gave him.”

High and senior Kara Saulsbury visited Hooper the first night he was in the hospital.

“We ended up staying for about two hours just talking and joking around,” Saulsbury said. “The next day he told me how much he appreciated it. He told me that he had told the nurses he want in pain because he had so many people come out and see him.”

On the last night, a few more of Hooper’s good friends came to stay with him.

“I heard about Edwin over Facebook, and I decided to head up there to see my boy with Brock and Corey,” Hooper’s friend and fellow senior Drew Winton said. “After we all talked for a bit, we got the idea to break Edwin out, so we found a wheelchair and got him out of bed, and pushed him all around the hospital just having fun and giving him some fresh air.”

While it was clear Winton meant well, Hooper’s escape almost ended badly.

“The highlight of the night had to be when Drew rolled the wheelchair into the elevator,” Beam said. “I was ‘suppose’ to hold the doors open, but I forgot and the doors started to close and almost caught Edwin’s leg. Drew and I were laughing so hard because Edwin screamed like a little girl.”

According to Beam, things seem to be getting back to normal.

“I say a lot of funny things to him about his wheelchair being in the bed of my truck,” Beam said. “Or about the fact that now I can get back on him for beating me up all the time, because I can slap the back of his head, and I don’t have to worry about him chasing me down for a while. It’s karma.”

Now Hooper faces more surgery and a long road back to recover; however, he feels like his plans are back on track.

“The plan right now is Rice, unless something happens from now until signing day, that’s where I will go,” Hooper said. “And if I rehab good for the next 9-12 months, I will hopefully be playing on your TV set in 2012.”