BLANCHARD — Jan. 5 couldn't come soon enough for Blanchard catcher Blaine Smith.
He had it marked on his calendar for several months. After gradually getting himself back into shape, that was the day he could finally become himself again and was cleared to play baseball again.
Four months earlier, he wasn't sure if he was going to play the sport again.
Smith was never a football star for the Lions, but he loved being out there with his friends and being part of the team.
In less than two quarters of the opening game, his season was over and his future was in question.
Smith broke his neck when his C-5 and C-6 vertebrae were compressed on a tackle in the season opener against rival Bridge Creek.
He was coming off his block to make the tackle when his teammate Marshall Veal was coming from the other side and nailed the Bridge Creek runner into Smith.
"It felt like somebody was tickling me all over," Smith said. "As soon as I hit him, all I could move was my elbow. I couldn't talk at all."
But the No. 1 thought that was going through his mind was, could he ever play baseball again?
"That's what he asked me," said Debbie Smith, his mother. "He wanted to know if he would walk and play baseball. I told him he'd be fine."
And so Blaine Smith began his road back. He could only move his index finger at first, and slowly he got more and more movement back.
He began doing hand exercises, and less than three weeks later, he was back to throwing soft toss with a baseball.
Smith didn't have any trouble watching the physicality of football again, but having to endure watching that next game and not being out there was tough.