The doctors told him he would be fine.
They said he could play through the lingering knee issue with no problems, just be smart. After all, he was a high school senior, in great shape, and committed to play soccer at Springfield College that fall.
Fast forward to the day, in the fall of 2016. Friday, September 16, to be exact. Springfield is hosting Lasell in its season opener, and freshman Jimmy Wilcox finds himself in the starting lineup. He was going to be “just fine.”
“Twenty minutes into the game I jumped up and then when I landed my knee just gave out,” he recalled.
Wilcox was just at the beginning his career at Springfield, and an injury of any severity was not the way he wanted to debut.
Once again, he was given some hope. “The athletic trainers afterwards said I would be fine,” Wilcox said. “That there was just a little bit of swelling. A week went by and we were getting ready for Wheaton. They told me ‘Let’s just see a doctor to make sure everything is fine’ because the swelling wasn’t going away.”
This time, Wilcox got the truth.
“I went to the doctor and he said ‘yeah, you need surgery, you tore your ACL.’”
That was it. An entire summer of preparation, a successful run in the preseason, all for a college debut that lasted 20 minutes.
“At first I was really upset,” said Wilcox. “I was trying to talk to the doctor and say stuff like ‘No, other doctors told me I just have loose joints and stuff, that’s why it’s moving that way’.”
Unfortunately, the other doctors were wrong. There was no time for Wilcox to become angry or upset that this issue wasn’t caught earlier.
The reality of the problem is the past is the past, nothing could be changed, and Wilcox had to face this setback and long road to recovery head on. The first call was to his parents, and that was not easy.
“I called my parents back home. It was really hard to talk to them and tell them.”
Next was him teammates.
“We had video after my appointment so a bunch of guys on the team were texting me saying after the doctor’s [to]come to video, because I thought it was going to be fine and it was just a checkup like normal,” Wilcox said.
He had to break the news to them.
“When I got to video everyone asked me, ‘Oh how’d it go?’ expecting good news. I just said ‘I’m going to need surgery’, and I stepped out of the room.”
The great thing about team sports and Springfield College is that it’s a family. For as defeated as Wilcox felt, he had no idea of the support that was around him and how everyone on the team was ready to go through this with him.
“[Springfield men’s head soccer coach Steffen Siebert] was really supportive. The first thing he told me when I told him it was torn was, ‘This could be the best thing to ever happen to you.’ At first, I didn’t really see it that way because I was so upset.” The belief others had in him lifted Wilcox’s own spirits.
His teammates never left his side.
“The team was great to me. No matter what team event it was I was always included with them,” said Wilcox. “I was still a friend. I sat with them everyday at Cheney. It was like I was still out there playing with them.”
The upperclassmen made sure to guide him along.
“I had a couple guys really help me out throughout the recovery process” said Wilcox. “I got really close with Xavi [Arroyo] and Harry [Davis]. It was really cool to get to know them and we’re still really good friends today.”
The recovery process was long and tedious, but it was all about reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, that has ups and downs too.
“The first month after surgery was just getting my muscles working again. Very little actual activity.”
Willcox continued, “The three months after that was just range of motion and maybe a little bit of strength. After that, for the last couple of months, I started to run again and was able to train harder and get back into it.”
By the time Wilcox could return to the pitch he had no trepidations in his knee.
“I was so excited to play again. We went to Spain this summer and the first time I was able to play again was in the practices before we left.”
For Wilcox, there was no better feeling in the world than being out there playing with his teammates once again.
“It was the first time since that game against Lasell that I was able to play 11 on11. It was just practice, but It was so much fun.”
Now, all this time later, the Pride sit undefeated at 8-0, and Wilcox is back healthy and in the middle of the fun again.
Through it all, Wilcox always deflected the credit back to his coach.
“He’s helped me out the most throughout this whole thing” said Wilcox. “If I went to any other school or had any other Coach, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He always gave me books to read and stuff to watch, that really helped me. It turned a really big negative into a really big positive.”
One more piece that remained with Wilcox through this entire journey was the theme of family.
“It’s an incredible feeling just how close we all are. All these people have helped me out so much and now we’re winning on the field and I get to be out there with them.”
He’s happy to have traded his days of watching through a lense, to being a part of the live action.
“I videoed a lot last season. I recorded a lot of goal celebrations and now just being a part of it, when the guys run to the huddle and celebrate it’s a pretty amazing feeling being a part of it firsthand. I couldn’t have pictured a better return.”
Struggles do not always last, but the bond Wilcox has with his teammates and coaches will. Wilcox, only a sophomore, has plenty of time left to learn and contribute. For now, his focus will rest on helping the Pride maintain its undefeated record as the season moves on.