2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

AFA captain Earls keeps perspective in approach to dealing with injury

Published: December 31, 2013, 6:00 pm, by Brent Briggeman

DeLovell Earls conveys an image of cool – in no rush when he talks or walks.

He took this same approach when it came to dealing with an injury this past summer.

The Air Force junior forward didn’t have one moment when he knew his left tibia was broken, but it was rather the culmination or wear-and-tear and it wasn’t getting any better.

Finally, in June he went in for surgery. The common fix for such an injury is to insert a rod into the broken bone to act as a support. Earls, however, learned that this would likely lead to issues such as tendonitis.

The alternative was to simply apply a plate to the outside of the bone, which is commonly used on the non-weight bearing fibula which is just to the outside of the tibia.

Earls’ knew the recovery time for his operation would be slowed if he opted against the rod, but his future was worth what it. As it turns out, he missed all but three minutes of Air Force’s nonconference schedule but figures to be back at nearly full strength for Wednesday’s Mountain West opener.

In an age where athletes try to rush back too quickly, Earls stands as the counter example. There’s no guarantee his approach will work, but how often do we see someone like Louisville’s Kevin Ware, who also suffered a broken tibia, speed back only to again be out with a season-ending injury?

Now comes the hard part for Earls, and that’s re-entering the starting lineup. That’s no given considering the contributions Justin Hammonds has made and the shooting touch of Marek Olesinski. Perhaps he could slip in instead of Kamryn Williams? There’s no clear spot for him right now, and broaching that topic finally made Earls break free from his cool demeanor.

“I’m going to work my butt off to get to the starting lineup,” said Earls, who played 34 minutes in a team scrimmage this past weekend without a problem. “I don’t want to come off the bench. I’m going to fight every day to start. I’m going to do what I have to do.”