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Shirt soaked with sweat and gasping for breath, Branden Cresap reached for a small table, a table he would use to lift himself up and down, some on his right knee and some on his surgically rebuilt left.
The goal is for Cresap to keep his balance while also adding strength to a knee that was severely damaged more than six months ago, Sept. 19, when his Shelby County Rockets were playing in the mountains at Johnson Central in the season’s third game.
His anterior-cruciate ligament was completely torn, and there was other damage to the knee, too. His season as the Rockets’ starting quarterback was done before it really got going.
Still, he said that after the hit knocked him from the game, all he could think about was trying to make sure his team won. "It wasn't until the next day that it really started to sink in that I couldn't play for the rest of the season," he said.
"I was mad and disappointed, but at the same time I had to support my teammates. I tried to help [backup quarterback Matt] Page as much as I could and tried to stay positive."
Positive was tough for those Rockets. They struggled to a 1-10 record.
But now, as Cresap prepares for his junior season and a return under center, his expectations are sky high - for himself and his teammates - starting this summer.
"He's been ahead of schedule the whole time because of how hard he's worked," said Alice Creque of Max Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehab in Shelbyville, where he is training three or four days a week. "We've been able to be pretty aggressive because of his work ethic and his age. He did therapy for every day for a month before his surgery."ee
Cresap said the hardest part was waiting after the surgery to get started again. Because he had 100 percent tears of both his ACL and meniscus, he was forced to stay completely off the knee for 30 days.
"Right after that he was here and ready to go," Creque said. "He's never once said ‘that's enough.’ From the night he got injured, he never said ‘poor me.’ He's always asked for more."
Cresap said he's tried to follow Creque's instructions as best he could. "It's been rough, but when you have people like this to work with - they're like family," he said. "I just do what they tell me. It [the knee] feels great right now."
Creque promised Cresap would be 100 percent just six months after the surgery. "Being a quarterback, you'd never know his knee was even hurt," she said. "We're getting his body prepared. He'll be ready to cut, run, jump and throw."
Cresap still has a lot of work to do.ee He needs to get back on the field and work with his receivers, move back under center, proving that he can take snaps and move freely on the field.
But he already has been putting in some of that time.ee The Rockets wrapped up their spring workouts with the annual spring game on April 1, and SCHS Coach Todd Shipley said Cresap was a big part of the spring.
"He was there every day unless he had rehab," Shipley said. "He'd throw some at the beginning, stationary of course. But as soon as the drills started, he went with the offense and watched and talked with his coach [offensive coordinator Jerry Lucas]. He tried to help [quarterbacks] Matt Page and Tyler Phillips."
Cresap believes he will be ready for the June and July passing camps and tournaments that the Rockets usually attend.ee "I'm really excited to get out there with the guys," he said. "The passing tournaments are honestly one of my favorite things about football.
“I really enjoy the competition, and it's going to be like being out the backyard playing pick-up football with my brothers."ee
That work, and individual work with the Rockets’ coaches will also get him ready for the one of the biggest camp tryouts he has had.
Elite 11 tryouts
Cresap, who stands 6 feet 1, 170 pounds, has been invited to tryout for the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp, and he will travel to Las Vegas on June 26 to work out at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The Elite 11 camp selects the top quarterbacks each year through a series of regional tryouts. The top 11 to 12 quarterbacks are then invited to a best-of-the-best camp in California, where they work with top coaches and college quarterbacks.
"We were shocked that he got invited," said his father, Mike Cresap. "He'll get evaluated out there, and then we'll see if he gets invited further on. But really this is a tribute to Coach Shipley and Coach Lucas for getting his name out there."
Cresap said he was surprised, but he knows he'll be ready to play when he gets there. "I just want to go out and get my name out a little," he said. "I've been invited to camps at Notre Dame, Clemson and Colorado, but this one is a little bigger. I'm really excited to go out there and work out."ee
The invitation will help spread Cresap's name, which is already on the radar of several Division I schools.
"I'm just taking it all in right now and enjoying," he said. "I have a lot of time left to make a decision. Right now, I just can't wait to get back on the field.
“I think we have a lot to prove after last year, and I think I have a lot to prove after just three starts last year. I want to show everybody what I can do, and what we can do as a team.
“I have big expectations for us next year."