Column: Arroyo battles a bad break

In a way, I know exactly how Buford soccer player Edgar Arroyo feels.

A little more than 16 years ago (man, I'm old), I broke my leg in a soccer match during my sophomore year of high school. Six months later, I broke the same leg again, this time the tibia and the fibula. That's when I took up golf.

It will be a month on Friday since Arroyo broke his right leg during the Wolves' 2-1 win over Berkmar. His injury was more gruesome than mine because the bone broke the skin, but the mental issues are the same ones I faced back then - the questions of "Will I ever play soccer again?" or "If I do play, will I be the same as before?"

To make it worse, the break came one day before his birthday, which he spent in ICU, part of a five-day hospital stay.

"I knew when it broke, I knew my senior year was over," Arroyo said. "I didn't feel any pain or anything at first. I just was yelling, 'Soccer's over. Soccer's over.' It's hard because soccer's such a big part of my life."

Arroyo himself is a big part of a young Buford soccer program, off to its best start ever at 8-3. A key team leader, injured or not, he also was the Wolves' go-to guy as a center midfielder. A relentless worker, he was the guy running extra laps, the guy getting his teammates motivated.

Now he only motivates off the field, but his teammates clearly want to do well for him. They wear wristbands in his honor and their game-day shirts sport his No. 11. They autographed the Berkmar game ball for him.

He's also gotten well wishes from other schools. Thom Jacquet, the coach of rival Greater Atlanta Christian, had his players sign a sweatshirt and give it to Arroyo, who was born in Mexico but moved to Buford as a 5-year-old.

The support has helped him through the early stages of the tough road to recovery - the initial mental questions, the two surgeries (the latter to put two rods in his leg) and the temporary use of a wheelchair. Now he faces four to five months of no use of the leg, followed by rehabilitation.

Arroyo, also the kicker for Buford's football team, hoped to play college soccer and appeared headed that way. Hopefully some college will still offer that chance when he's back to 100 percent.

"Edgar's just a kid that loves the game," Buford coach Brandon Manders said. "He can still have a great comeback story. He has that kind of heart, that kind of will."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.