|Troy's Kyle Wilborn signals last year at ULL / Troy University photo|
BY DREW CHAMPLIN | email@example.com
TROY -- Somewhere around the time Kyle Wilborn was having shoulder surgery last December, the Troy senior offensive lineman had thoughts pop in his mind that enough was enough and maybe it was time to move on from football.
Who could blame him? That particular surgery, on his left shoulder, was Wilborn’s sixth surgery since after his senior year in high school. It was his second within a calendar year on the same shoulder.
He watched his close friend and roommate Jacob Creech give up his senior year after undergoing serious knee and shoulder surgeries in back to back seasons. Wilborn has been a starter each year after redshirting in 2008, but he’s played through pain in nearly every game.
But the allure of playing one more season with the teammates he’s fond of, the school he loves and the coaching staff who took a chance on him coming out of a small private school in Georgia was too much to give up.
“I’d be lying if I said no, it never popped in my head,” said Wilborn, now listed at 6-foot-4 and 299 pounds. “I love playing here. I love being a part of a team. I love Troy, every part of it. You work that whole career, senior year not being able to do it, it would kill me personally. I love being here and love being around the guys. I just didn’t want to give it up.”
Wilborn, projected as Troy’s starting left guard for the third straight year after playing right tackle in 2009, has had six football-related surgeries. He had wrist surgery after his senior year, right shoulder surgery in 2008, arthroscopic knee surgery in August 2010, ankle surgery in the spring of 2011 and arthroscopic shoulder surgery also in the spring of 2011.
He’s torn the labrum in the right shoulder once and the left shoulder twice. He also played with a sprained ligament in his knee last year and last December’s shoulder surgery was his sixth. He added a seventh surgery this past spring when he had to have his gall bladder removed.
Being an offensive lineman and playing through pain isn’t uncommon, but it sure brought bad fortune to Troy last year during a 3-9 season. Wilborn finally had to sit out the final two games when enough was enough. Creech finally earned his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2010, but a shoulder injury ended that season and an early knee injury ended his 2011 season. Jimbo Arnold got some key action last year but he also had a season-ending foot injury and subsequent surgery.
“We suffer through it with them, hoping they can play and hoping they’re well,” Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. “Wilborn played last year when he probably didn’t need to play. We’ve had other guys like that. Jimbo Arnold has played through some injuries.
“I never thought of it (Wilborn not playing his senior year). We’ve had that happen. I don’t blame any of those guys. Creech gave up his last year and he had been through a bunch. I really think the world of Jacob Creech. He’s a smart guy and he had business opportunities and he took advantage of them.
“Kyle Wilborn is a high-caliber guy and we’re hoping and praying we can get him through without getting him hurt.”
Wilborn has been cleared to participate in 100 percent of activities, and declared himself “the healthiest I’ve felt since my freshman year.”
Wilborn certainly wasn’t highly recruited, as his high school in Newnan, Ga., The Heritage School, didn’t even field a football team until his junior year. If not for that, Wilborn would have never played football.
“It was a process of going to different web sites, putting a package together of my grades and game film, sending it off and hopefully getting calls back,” Wilborn said.
Troy called back. Others did as well, but none offered scholarships to a guy who speaks fluent German, has German heritage and eventually came to Troy and became the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and a four-year starter.
“He is a good player. He is a good person. He’s a good student of the game,” Blakeney said. “He wasn’t necessarily a 5-star guy, but he’s turned out to be a guy that gets a lot done and gets the most out of his time out there.”
Wilborn has been volunteering with various groups since he was in high school. He recently was Troy’s representative to go to New Orleans and spend time with the Boys and Girls Club and also attend compliance meetings with one other student-athlete from each Sun Belt school.
“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, going back to high school,” Wilborn said. “I really enjoy spending time doing that. Down in New Orleans, I had a great time and I knew every student-athlete there had a great time. Being able to change their day was a lot of fun.”
Strength and conditioning coach Richard Shaughnessy said Wilborn has caught the eye of NFL scouts, but his injury history is a concern.
“It’s definitely an opportunity I would love,” Wilborn said. “It would be a dream come true. Every player wants that chance to go on to the next level. Obviously I’ve had the injuries, but throughout the season I’ve been able to play through them and take care of them in the offseason. Hopefully I can stay healthy this year.”