By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Key blocks downfield, timely receptions and hard work in practices made James Carson a vital part of the historic 2017 Brighton Cardinal Football season.
The No. 12 was in on several crucial plays for Brighton’s run to the Regional 8-5A championship and State Semifinals. There was so much optimism for Carson coming into the 2018 season for his senior season as a wide receiver.
“I tore my ACL on the last day of seven-on-seven right before the season started,” Carson recalled. “I just started getting real sad and real depressed. ‘Man, I don’t want to lose all my scholarships and things.’ I wasn’t going to be able to play football like I’ve always wanted to. I’d been playing since I was 5.”
While growing up in Tipton County Carson’s biggest dream was to play college football with a chance to go professional. That was all in jeopardy with no senior season on the field and a devastating aliment to his knee. But the support system of Cardinal Football, Brighton High School, family, friends and parents James Kevin and Shanel helped Carson overcome his depression and set his mind back on reaching the college level.
On Feb. 22 in the Brighton Gymnasium Lobby, James made his dream come true by inking his national letter of intent to play for the Central Methodist University Eagles in Fayette, Missouri.
“Him having the ACL injury right before his senior year was a big damper on him,” Kevin said. “There were some D-I interest and opportunities he had that went to the waste side when he suffered the injury. He stayed focused through the injury and the recovery time.
“The doctors and therapist were very positive helping him get through that process,” he continued. “They said six months and he turned it around. He got his full release last week. They released him to go back to full action. He stayed mentally focused and tough on what his game plan was.”
James sticking with his dream and his new game plan landed him at CMU of the Heart of America Athletic Conference in the NAIA.
“I’m looking to see what do I have to do to make myself better to get to that next level to continue to do what I love doing,” James said. “A lot of those people here today trained me and been there every day. I’m just excited they came out here to witness this day.”
Additional members of James’ support system in attendance for his signing were grandfathers John and Eddie, and uncles James and Ricky. Those men helped Kevin form a foundation for James in his work ethic and physical fitness.
Kevin said those values helped his son rebound from his ACL injury.
“The biggest thing was all the adversity he had to go through and he stayed mentally strong,” he noted. “I think he had a good support system with his teammates. He reached out to people who had similar injuries. He kind of got their mindset.
“His goal was always to go play college ball,” Kevin added. “And hopefully go on to bigger things after that. He changed his mind set and got focused and stayed strong. It definitely helped him grow in his own character, and it kinds of shows what kind of man he’s going to be.”
James said the trials and tribulations from his rehabilitation made him appreciate the game and his Brighton teammates more.
“I came to practices and supported my teammate just for the love of the game,” he said. “It’s what I love doing. And I knew God would have a plan for me. I kept pushing and did what I had to do.
“My recruiting process was kind of hard,” James acknowledged. “A lot of coaches didn’t want to take a risk on a player who tore his ACL. I wasn’t able to get that feel from a senior year. I had to show them I work hard every day and that’s what I was going to be.”
No stranger to a gym, James had to add his rehab exercise to his normal routine.
“Therapy started three days after surgery,” he recalled. “I was there at least twice a day, three days out of the week. I would go to the gym by myself or workout at home just to get back in shape. I didn’t want to lose everything I already had.”
Kevin said once he saw his son’s dedication to his recovery, he knew his dream of signing a college football scholarship was a strong possibility.
“The biggest thing growing up was trying to instill character in him,” he said. “As a person, you have to be the man you’re going to be. You have to show that every day. You’re going to get judged by everybody, every day. So how you carry yourself is who you are. We’ve always tried to instill that in him about being disciplined not only in athletes.
“In his academics as well, he’s stayed very disciplined,” Kevin continued. “He’s carrying a 3.86 GPA in school. He’s going to leave high school with 18 college credits. That’s from staying focused on both sides of the game. With my wife being an educator, it helped him stay straight on the academics.”
The experience of recovering from the ACL, knowledge of physical training, and love of football has given James a new purpose before heading off to CMU.
“His goal right now and his focus is going to college and he’s going to study exercise science, with a kinesiology background with a minor in business,” Kevin noted. “His goal is hopefully to go on and play in the NFL. But he’s also knows what his B plan is. That’s to open up his own gym and be a physical therapist and personal trainer.
“He even wants to be strength and conditioning coach for professional or college,” he added. “He’s already has his game plan mapped out and he’s pretty focused on it.”
James said he is ready for the next chapter of his football life and fulfilling his purpose in life.
“Since I’ve torn my ACL, I’ll be able to help other players who will go through the same thing like if they’re going to endanger their career,” he concluded. “I can show them you can do anything even after an injury.”