Jake Gilmore doesn't have an awesome nickname … yet. But something like Cyborg or Ironman would be appropriate. Or the Comeback Kid...all would be deserving.
He has earned a cool nickname after what he went through last year. A devastating leg injury on the first offensive play of the first preseason scrimmage last year ended his junior campaign for the Claremore Zebras.
The pain of missing an entire year of playing football pales in comparison to the pain he felt when his femur snapped completely in two during an innocent play at the Rogers County Rumble scrimmage at Claremore Sequoyah last August.
Listed at 5-10 and a buck fifty on the 2017 roster, he was not an intimidating-looking football player. But his resolve and remarkable comeback from injury has certainly increased his "warrior cred" with the coaches and his team.
Gilmore can remember every detail of the play that ended his season a year ago.
"We ran a pass play and I ran a corner route," Gilmore said. "Noah Grimett, our quarterback, threw me the ball about 45 yards downfield and the guy caught up with me from behind and we just got tangled up."
Little did anybody know what he would go through in the next 72 hours.
"At first I was kind of shocked. It felt kind of dead," Gilmore said. "After about 10 minutes, the pain set in pretty good."
Rushed to the hospital, an X-ray on his femur revealed a gruesome sight.
"Instead of one long bone, it was like two short bones right next to each other," Gilmore recalled. "It was really swollen, a lot bigger than the other one."
Doctors couldn't perform surgery yet, at least not until they pulled the bone back to a place where they could connect the two portions and set it.
"The first thing they did was put a wire through the bottom part of the bone and hung a weight to it to pull it back even," Gilmore said. "The next night, they did the surgery and put a rod from the knee to the hip with two screws down low and one up top."
But being a Zebra, and wearing those stripes, was still on Gilmore's mind.
"I got out of the hospital (the next Monday) at about noon and practice was at 2 p.m.," he said. "So I went home, changed clothes and then showed up at practice. It felt good to get back to a football atmosphere."
Claremore coach Jarrett Hurt felt as bad as anyone to have lost a player of Gilmore's caliber for the season. But now, Hurt has him back and thinks he has a secret weapon in "Cyborg."
"Our theme this year is 'All In' and Jake Gilmore represents that in a great way," Hurt said. "He's all in. He's battled back. He has gone through some adversity and now he's back and ready to have a great senior year. We know what he can do. Nobody else knows what he can do, so he's going to burst on the scene this year in a great way and we just can't wait for him to do it."
Gilmore spent the past year rehabbing his injury. All his weight lifting has improved. He went from squatting 300 last year to more than 315 this year. After a year of giving moral support from the sidelines, he is ready for more.
"You don't take for granted that you will get to play out the actual season and play football," Gilmore said. "It was tough, but it was fun watching the team make the playoffs last year. I still traveled to all the games and went to all the practices. I was basically a cheerleader out there."
He has yet to take a big hit on that leg, but it is something he doesn't fear.
"I think it will feel normal," Gilmore said. "I don't think I will notice it much. I'm pretty much back to normal. It hangs up every once in a while, but that's just how it's going to be. I will just try to have a successful season, injury free, and play out my senior season."
Hurt wants to make this season a special one for Gilmore. He has a lot of time to make up for, and he will get his chance by playing all over the field for the Zebras this fall.
"He's an inside receiver," Hurt said. "We'll use him on jet sweeps, get him the ball in space. He does a great job with the ball in his hands. He is also an outstanding cornerback. He had a great interception in that scrimmage last year."
Hurt also said they will put Gilmore in the kicking game, returning kicks and punts, and where ever else they need a versatile player.
"This is his senior year and we're going to use him in a great way," Hurt said.
Gilmore is stronger physically than last year…his lifting has proved that. The brain is funny about how it remembers trauma. But Gilmore insists he is ready, mind and body. The injury is in the past, though that steel rod is still holding him together. Now he is focused on his future on that Lantow turf.
He is all the way back.
"One hundred percent," he said.