By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In five years, Tipton County has been the place of many triumphs for Escandon. But the Munford High School senior has endured some hardships like suffering an ACL injury in her right knee.
That tribulation served as motivation for Escandon to reach her next moment of achievement April 5 in the Munford High School Library when she signed her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Southwest Tennessee.
“I’m nervous for her,” Grace’s mother Cristie acknowledged. “She had a tough year tearing her ACL and having surgery. But she’s healed up well and soccer is her passion. So I am excited she’ll get to do it in college.”
Cristie and her husband Ric Escandon joined their daughter Grace for the signing ceremony. Also present were Grace’s grandmother Linda Berglund, Southwest Coach Brandon C. VanCleave and Munford Head Soccer Coach Stan Jamscek.
“I’m excited about Grace going to play and go to school,” Jamscek said. “She’s super excited about it. I’ve been her coach at Munford for two years and she was our defender. No. 1 she was a leader on our team with her behavior in the school and on the field.
“Then on the field she was great, amazing,” he continued. “She was a hard worker, coachable, listener. She was a great role model for the younger players. She played every minute until she got injured. That was kind of sad with her getting hurt at the end of her senior season.”
Grace’s senior year was going along smoothly when her right knee popped and was torn.
“I was devastated because I really wanted to play and finished my game with my best friends,” Grace recalled. “But it just didn’t end up working out for me. For a few months I was thinking soccer wasn’t going to be in the picture for me a long time.
“Then I decided to go to Southwest and see if I wanted to go there,” she continued. “I ended up really liking it. I was super impressed by the coaches and the team. Everything seemed to be working out for me.”
Jamscek noted Grace’s rehabilitation proved to the Southwest coaching staff she would be ready and primed for the college level.
“It was hard on her not to finish the season,” he said. “But after the surgery, she worked really hard with her recovery. She would join me in practice with the boys to do the rehab she needed to do.”
The man known as “Coach Stan” said he will miss his on-the-field leader and in-the-classroom role model for his younger players.
“I’m honored he could say that about me,” Grace said. “Coach Stan has really helped me learn a lot. He’s provided me with a lot of opportunities. To hear him say that means a lot to me.”
Grace has made an impact on Lady Cougar Soccer after growing up with the game as a little child.
“She’s played soccer since she was knee-high to a grasshopper,” Cristie recalled. “It’s her passion. It’s in her heart. As a mother, I do worry about her having another ACL injury but that’s why I keep telling her you have to be in the gym twice as long than everyone to get those muscles built up. I let her do her dream and go with it.”
Grace went with her parents through her father’s Naval career as a pilot. They family lived as far as Sicily.
Now the 17-year-old is an active member of the Gateway Munford Church choir and pillar in the MHS community. Cristie noted the injury might turn out to be a blessing in disguised to assist Grace in the next chapter of her life.
“She wanted to play for University of Memphis initially,” she said. “But because of her injury, that wasn’t a possibility. Then she was looking between Dyersburg and Southwest. She met with the coach at Southwest on her Senior Day. She was really impressed with everything. Her Daddy went with her, they made the decision.
“She has had a heart to either go into Sports Medicine or be a physical therapist,” Cristie continued. “I feel it was God letting her go through this in order to have that experience. It’s not an uncommon injury for young lady athletes. She will have that empathy and experience and be able to relate to her patients later.”
Grace said rehab was an eye-opening experience.
“I don’t know what’s in the future for me,’ she acknowledged. “I’m trying to determine my best options. I did learn a lot in physical therapy. I told my therapist I could possibly be one. They were showing me the ropes.
“The patience has really close relations with them,” Grace added. “They were showing me how to do all the exercise. It was one patient they actually let me help.”
Grace said from her doctors to her teammates, so many people have helped her reached her goal of college soccer. She is glad her home is Munford.
Cristie said she is glad Munford has welcomed her daughter in a way that made her feel at home.
“Grace her superlative at Senior Night was Biggest Change,” she said. “She is such a different young lady than she was coming into high school. Just to see her personality, I’m so glad to see her so passionate about other things.
“Her personality, I am all around proud of her,” Cristie concluded. “I love watching her play soccer but I love even more seeing who she is becoming as a young woman in life.”