Back in Blue |

Back in Blue

Jeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Indepedent/Kara K. Pearson

RIFLE – Head coach Damon Wells likened Hazen Moss’ poor luck to a death in the family. “Words can’t describe it,” the Rifle head coach said of seeing Moss lose each of the last two seasons to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. “Particularly because of his talent and the ability he brings to the field and because he’s such a great kid. He does anything you ask him to do.”The injury, lightning that’s twice struck Moss, has severely shortened a prep career brimming with potential. Remarkably, the senior quarterback doesn’t seem fazed. He just wants a healthy final season and to go out a winner.”It was tough,” said Moss, taking a break from practice and donning a bulky black brace on his left knee. “I was pretty upset both times, but had to overlook it. I try to be happy.”Moss, who has played just a season on the freshman team and three and a half varsity football games, never sat idle while sidelined. Between rigorous rehabilitation sessions, he showed up to every Rifle practice and every Rifle game. “His response after the second injury was more than you could ask of any adult,” Wells recalled. “He got up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to rehab. He came in to help break down game film. He’s a super kid, almost a 4.0 (GPA) guy. That kid just deserves to play.”While hurt, Moss more or less morphed into another Bears coach, turning a negative into a major positive in the process.

“He came to practice every day and we gave him the practice schedule and a watch,” Wells said. “He kept us on schedule.”Moss said the time on the sidelines only helped his mental game. “I think, in a way, it helped me understand the game way better,” he said. “I can see everything better coming from a coach’s perspective.”That perspective could spell big-time success for Moss and the Bears, who went to the state title game in 2005 and to the state quarterfinals last year without him. Much of the senior’s talent lies in his legs. As Wells is quick to point out, Moss had more than 100 yards by halftime of the 2005 game in which he injured his knee.Moss’ teammates, too, recognize his immense talent.”It was rough the last two years seeing him out with injury,” offensive/defensive lineman Justin Stone said. “It was rough seeing him on the sidelines knowing he has so much talent and no chance to showcase it.”

On his first ACL tear, Moss was making a tackle on a kickoff halfway through the third game of 2005. His foot planted and knee twisted. Season over.He didn’t even get in a game in 2006. In a preseason practice, while going to pitch the ball, he got tackled. His foot stayed put and knee bent inward. Season over.Both were freakish injuries in a sport known for freakish injuries. Each stole what could have been amazing seasons from the gifted quarterback, who also kicks and plays safety and linebacker on defense.Rehab was strenuous, though Moss insists it was much easier the second time around.

“The movement came back a lot faster so it was easier,” he said. “It was good. I worked out every day. I had a lot of help from (Rifle defensive coordinator Alfonso) Alfini. I would wake up before school at 5:30 and lift. Then I’d go to school and during school I had a weight lifting class. And every night before bed, I’d work on my mobility.”By spring, Moss was running track for the Bears and well on his way to recovery.While most would be consumed with thoughts of another injury, Moss just shrugs it off. He knows better than to let fear control his play. He says he’s operating at 100 percent. “I’m just as good as normal,” he stressed.Moss doesn’t dare think of another season-ending injury. He does his best to keep it off his mind while working feverishly at yet another comeback attempt.And throughout all the agony and punishment that is rehab, one thing above all kept the senior going – a return to the gridiron.Said Moss: “I just knew I wanted to play.”

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