MOUNT CARMEL -- For as long as he can remember, sports have always being an integral part of Trevor Peterson's life.
The youngest of three boys in a household growing up, Peterson was around sports just about all of his life, even if they weren't his own.
The Mount Carmel High School senior and his parents, Keesha and Chad Peterson, recall him participating in sports since he was 3 years old, a trend he continued all the way through high school. He's a three-sport athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball for the Aces, but his passion's always been football, with dreams of playing under the lights of Riverview Stadium and donning the Mount Carmel maroon and gold.
"It's pretty big to play for Mount Carmel," Trevor Peterson recalled. "It's a big football town, you're under the stadium."
Trevor was emerging as a junior as a running back and a defensive back for the Aces, and the Aces were having success along side Peterson's, boasting a 3-2 record at the halfway mark through the season.
His opportunity to continue as a three-sport athlete in his junior year was suddenly in jeopardy however, following one fateful night in September.
IT'S SEPT. 28, the Aces are battling for their playoff lives. The IHSA playoff format mandates participating football member schools to maintain a record of at least 5-4 to qualify for the postseason, meaning this game would be crucial for their postseason aspirations.
The opponent and what would transpire would make it a tough victory to convert on. It was homecoming night in Jasper, a Big Eight Conference foe the Aces hadn't bested since 2016, and Mount Carmel needed to play spoiler to the night's festivities in order to preserve their playoff chances.
On Jasper's first drive former Aces linebacker Blake Kight stuffed the Wildcats' running back and came up with a big third down stop, forcing Jasper to settle for a field goal attempt early in the first quarter. The Aces drew up a new special teams play to execute, hoping to block the impending kick -- the result of the play was far less than ideal.
The play design called for Aces running back and defensive back Trevor Peterson to run up the middle to try to block the kick as the line split to try to open the gap for Peterson's entry into the backfield. As Peterson rushed the middle, he felt a lineman's helmet colliding with his knee, and then another lineman's foot was stuck out, consequentially hyperextending the rising Aces' knee.
When Peterson was down on the turf, Peterson's parents, Keesha and Chad Peterson, were in the stands at the game with Trevor's brother Ethan, and were unaware that it was their youngest son down at the time.
"He's been hit a lot and always pops back up," Keesha Peterson said. "When he was laying down we knew that there was a problem."
"It was just disbelief," Chad Peterson recalled. "Like [Keesha] said, he always pops up and I've seen him get hit so hard and didn't think he'd pop up. When he's laying there I was like, that's not Trevor, that can't be Trevor. Our one son who has better eyes than we do was like, that's Trevor."
Peterson recalls attempting to get up and walk it off immediately after the injury, but was unable to do so and quickly realized something was wrong.
"I felt everything twist, I was on the ground and I was like, there's something wrong," Trevor Peterson recalled. "I didn't move, I tried to stand up a little bit, couldn't stand up and then that's when I saw all of the coaches and Sam [Hodges] running over to me."
The extent of the injuries were realized the next day in an MRI, he had suffered a torn MCL and a partially torn ACL. After considering their options, the Peterson's and Dr. Julko Fullop, an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Wabash General Hospital, came to the joint conclusion that it was in Trevor's best interest to let the ligaments heal naturally, and evaluate them as time went on, opening some possibility that Peterson could return for either basketball or baseball season -- if the ligaments heal properly.
"The most encouraging was the fact that we had time on our hands so he could get back prior to his senior year at that point," Chad Peterson said. "Especially after that first surgery, you're not going to miss much. Basketball and baseball this year and then boom, you're ready to start summer workouts."
The Aces rallied behind Peterson's injury, but fell in a heartbreaker to Jasper, losing 36-32 in the waning minutes of the ballgame. Nothing seemed to click following that game, Peterson's absence took a devastating toll on the defense, with no safety available as a backup, forcing players to shift to unnatural positions and more than anything, the team morale took a huge hit. Mount Carmel ended the season 3-6, falling in four consecutive games to end the season.
Peterson was on the sideline on crutches supporting his team the rest of the way though, through thick and thin, he didn't abandon his teammates.
AS HIS RECOVERY CONTINUED basketball season was nearing. The torn MCL as healing properly as expected, but there were concerns with the ACL's recovery. Dr. Fullop and the Peterson's elected to have Dr. Fullop go back into the knee to remove some remaining scar tissue and scope the ACL.
The scope did reveal that the ACL was at about 90 percent strength, so after cleaning it out a bit, Peterson was set to go. He'd continue to rehab, regain his strength in the affected leg, and inch closer to a return to the court.
Peterson stuck with the vigorous workout routines, doing some box jumps, improving his conditioning, cutting, all while with the support of a knee brace to stabilize the ligaments and to help prevent further injury.
After more than 33 therapy appointments, Peterson's knee had reached the point where the affected leg was actually stronger than his other knee due to the intensive workouts.
"His percentages were over 100 percent and Fullop wanted him to be at least 90 percent of the strong leg," Keesha Peterson recalled. "He was testing higher in a lot of those on his affected leg because he had been working it so hard in therapy."
With both of his legs back to strength, Peterson was back and ready for basketball. He debuted in his first game against Lawrenceville on Jan. 29, playing a few minutes to get back into the flow of the game in a 67-35 blowout victory for the Aces.
After his debut, Peterson felt normal again and was slowly regaining confidence.
"It felt back to normal, I honestly didn't notice a difference," Trevor Peterson said. "Cutting was fine, everything was fine, I was just wearing a knee brace now. I really didn't feel like I needed the knee brace, but just for extra stability."
Then disaster struck once again. Peterson was playing in his second game, this one a JV game against Boonville on Feb. 1, in which he was finally returning to the flow of the game -- that is until he made a sudden cut in transition and went down again late in the game. He doesn't remember much about it, but teammates told Peterson he had been screaming, "Not again, not again!"
"I just felt my knee go out and it's never done that outside of when the MCL was torn, but that time it was just a quick hyperextension out," Trevor Peterson said. "All of the blood just rushed out of my head, I don't really remember what happened after that."
Keesha and Chad Peterson slowly walked down the Boonville stadium stands, fearing another significant injury given Trevor's track record of popping back up and the previous knee injury.
"When we got down to the sideline I said hey, are you ok," Keesha Peterson recalled. "He said it snapped, I felt it. He felt like a pop or whatever, he said I tore it, I tore it again, I can't do this again. I was like, yes you can. That was of course minutes afterwards."
Trevor received the news the next day -- he had suffered a torn ACL and a torn meniscus, absolutely gut wrenching news.
AFTER EXPERIENCING A CATASTROPHIC KNEE INJURY you have to wait for the swelling to subside prior to taking further action, but it can take quite some time for swelling to go down on such a catastrophic injury.
Prior to having the surgery done Peterson had to regain his range of motion and reduce the swelling, calling for countless hours of icing, that is until a speedy alternative was discovered and utilized.
Peterson had begun using the Game Ready unit that Wabash General Hospital had, a unit which relieves swelling in joints and ligaments from injuries and wear and tear through the use of hot and cold compression therapy.
Each time after using, the Peterson's noticed a drastic different in Trevor's knee, which had experienced tremendous relief to help speed up the the wait for surgery.
He quickly realized the immense benefits such a unit could have if it was readily available for the high school's athletes, if a unit was able to be kept in the school, leading to Game Ready initiative the family started.
Peterson recorded a video calling for donations, recounting his tale, his experience with the system, and the benefits such a unit could have for athletes to come at Mount Carmel. The Mount Carmel community rallied around the effort and quickly raised sufficient funds to purchase a unit.
Additionally, Trevor's video circulated so much that it reached the makers of Game Ready, who were touched by his story and pledged to donate an additional unit for use.
"Yeah, that's trying to make something good out of something bad," Trevor Peterson said. "It definitely helped me personally to be able to do something for other people -- and myself."
"How the community rallied around the Game Ready system -- a small town you can talk bad about them if you want to," Chad Peterson added. "But when you see the true heart of the people, it's fantastic in a small town."
Even after such good coming from an unfortunate circumstance, Peterson's frame of mind wasn't the best. Such a series of injuries can take a serious mental toll on individuals, coupled with the obvious physically affects. Despite having his own car and a license, his parents had to drive him to school once again due to physical condition.
He still came to the Mount Carmel sporting events just to feel involved, even if he wasn't able to participate.
"I was definitely at the lowest point I've been I feel like," Trevor Peterson said. "Not being able -- I was a three-sport athlete at the time and now I couldn't even walk, six weeks after my surgery I was on crutches. I pretty much went to every sporting event because I couldn't do anything else, might as well support people. Just seeing everyone do what I usually do is almost heartbreaking. Not just being able to be who I usually am and just having to sit out, which I usually don't do, it's tough."
"He was definitely going through the four stages of grief for a while," Chad Peterson recalled. "He was mad, then just flat. Whether he admits it or not, he wasn't himself and you can't blame him."
Trevor accredits his parents, as well as his girlfriend, Addie Drone, for being there as his primary support system through such a difficult time. He added that former coaches, friends, and members of the community all reached out to him to check on him and wish him well, citing he couldn't have went through such a recovery without such immense support.
"She's my girlfriend, she's never seen me like that and I've always been a more happy person, but when you're down like that it's tough to be happy all of the time," Trevor Peterson said. "Just them helping me get through it, telling me I'm going to be able to walk again, telling me I'm not going to be on crutches my whole life. All of my family too, and the community basically. I've had so many people talk to me and tell me it's going to be ok. A lot of people have been through what I've been through, it's just tough to have to do it twice."
AFTER GOING THROUGH ANOTHER vigorous round of rehab throughout the summer, Peterson had finally inched closer to a return to football. His timeline for recovery was penciled in at an estimated six months post-procedure, which will be on Wednesday, Aug. 21.
His early rehab routines included light walking and running, which slowly expanded to bikes, and exercises to get him back running in a straight line. He had been trying to increase his range and working on strength conditioning, doing box jumps and various workouts to strengthen his quad, which he said was in rough shape after the surgery.
Most recently the workouts have expanded to cutting, stopping on a dime, running on uneven surfaces, and he began football work just about two weeks ago, just non-contact drills such as handoffs, walk throughs, among others.
He hasn't experienced any swelling, flare ups, nothing to cause concern as of late, which is a tremendous sign in his recovery. As for the knee, he said the knee feels pretty good, he knows he likely won't regain the same explosiveness he had in the knee, but said he's overcome the mental hurdles with cutting and is regaining his confidence.
Being relegated to watching and supporting teammates for the 10 months, Peterson said he's vastly improved as a leader, as he hasn't had to worry about refining his own craft and instead focused on uplifting others.
The Peterson's did say they've discussed the potential ramifications of a return to football and understand the consequences that may surface in playing such a sport, but after missing just about all of his junior year, it's important to Trevor to return for one last go around.
"There might be some tears shed by me," Keesha Peterson said. "It would have been special anyway to see him start his senior year, have some play time and get out there, but it's going to have a different meaning this year. Not only is it his last year, it's seeing him triumph over adversity, that's a big deal. It's more in his character and part of his story. We took a round of senior pictures and obviously we did some in his football uniform and he wanted to wear his brace in them, he said this is part of me now, this is part of my story."
"It's been a long year," Chad Peterson interjected.
Now, 172 days later, Peterson was at last cleared for his official return to the team on Monday, Aug. 12. He'll begin contact work and will be thrust right back into the mix.
Peterson joked that when he does return to game action, he's never running that play on special teams again, but was glowing with excitement when talking about the upcoming season.
"I'd mainly liked to be remembered for my leadership," Trevor Peterson said. "All of my years other than my freshman year I've heard wow, that football team doesn't have any leadership on it. That's what I've been trying to change this year. Just trying to get everyone excited to be there, excited to play for Mount Carmel. . . . I feel closer to this group than any I've been with before, I feel like that'll help. There's so many guys that the city of Mount Carmel doesn't know about yet who'll be out there and show them everything we got. I'm excited for this year."
With a 2018-19 to forget behind him, Peterson and the Aces will make their official season debut on Aug. 30 when they host Harrisburg at 7 p.m.