MARTIN, Mich. — The Martin football team is off to a 4–0 start to the season for the second time in the past three seasons.
A big reason for the team success is junior tight end and safety Sam Jager, but there was a moment last year that he didn't know if he'd ever play football again.
"After last year, I was like, 'Oh boy, is this the end? Is it really the end?'" Jager recalled.
Playing high school football was something Jager was looking forward to for years, but just a few plays into his freshman season, he was dealt with a big blow.
"I went out on that punt, went down the field trying to make a tackle, made one wrong step and it was all over," Jager said. "I really didn't know what was going on or what it was until I went to the hospital."
The diagnosis wasn't good; it was a torn ACL in his left knee.
The injury would require surgery and months of physical therapy, and the recovery would go on for an entire year, but he was ready to go for his sophomore season.
"First game of my sophomore year, [the] second or third play of the game, I get rolled up on," Jager explained.
And head coach Brad Blauvelt was there when it happened.
"He comes back his sophomore year after working his butt off and first game of the year he gets rolled up on, like two plays in."
Just over one year to the day of the torn ACL, Jager would suffer a sprain to his MCL in the same knee, which would keep him sidelined for all of the 2020 season.
"It was a 'why me?' type of thing, like, 'Why is this happening to me?' Two years in a row, first game of the seasons, I haven't gotten anything done and I put in all this work in the off-season preparing for the next season," Jager said.
After yet another off-season filled with recovery and work, Sam returned for his junior season this fall.
On Friday night, in a 48–6 win over Montabella, Jager caught six passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns, including the first of his career.
"It was a great feeling," Jager smiled, "just feeling like I'm part of the team again and back in it, making those big plays and it was just great."
It was a career day after two years of adversity.
"Just to see him get a little recognition is so nice," said Blauvelt. "He's been putting work in and doing a great job the prior four weeks, but it just so happened to be his time to shine in that game and he took full advantage of it."
Despite everything he's been through and countless ups and downs, Sam remains positive and is looking forward to the season ahead.
"Things happen so quick and things change so quick," he said about his new perspective on life. "Those injuries happened in a split second and put me out for those two seasons, but you just have to keep your head up, really."
The unbeaten Clippers will host Bloomingdale this Friday night, hoping to improve to 5–0 on the season.
* Note: Aleshia B Videography provided video for this story