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Timeout Football: Portage’s Hashim Simpson making most of his time after ACL injury

Portage running back Hashim Simpsjust returned from knee surgery rushed for 120 yards 30 carries. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

Portage running back Hashim Simpson just returned from knee surgery and rushed for 120 yards on 30 carries. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:35AM



PORTAGE — This past February was not a good time for the Portage football program.

It was about then that Wally McCormack started wondering why he got back into the business after resigning from Hobart and taking a year off.

In the same week, his starting quarterback and his go-to running back went down with torn anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

They were different types of tears suffered in different sports.

Gage Pearman, the quarterback, hurt his knee while playing basketball for the Indians, while Hashim Simpson hurt his during the second week of track practice.

Simpsons’ injury was freakish. He was doing hurdles during practice, even though he wasn’t a hurdler, to help extend his stride. He caught his left leg on top of the hurdle and came down on his knee awkwardly, hyper extending it — except it was a hyper extension that included an ACL tear.

It was a scary moment for him. Pretty much his entire high school career stood in the balance.

After essentially playing behind Rashaan Coleman for two seasons, Simpson was pointing to this season as his year. He was a senior and he needed the chance to showcase his talent if there was even the smallest chance that he could play beyond high school.

Finally, seven months after the injury, he was able to play in real competition against Chesterton last week.

By any reasonable standards, the results were excellent.

Simpson rushed for 120 yards on 30 carries and he finished with four touchdowns.

Simpson doesn’t have reasonable standards. McCormack didn’t necessarily want him to run the ball 30 times but his personnel set came up for the defenses Chesterton was using.

“It was Ok,” Simpson said, “but I think I should’ve had at least 200 yards with that many carries.

Spoken like a kid who was impatient to get back on the field. Simpson is certain this week against Michigan City is going to be much better.

In some ways, the fact that Simpson is actually playing is minor miracle.

Pearman was released to play at the beginning of the season.

Simpson’s doctors didn’t want him returning for nine months.

That would have put him back in action in November — too late for him to contribute in a meaningful way and probably too late for him to play at all.

It was a sobering time when his doctor sprung the nine-month rehab time on him.

Simpson had other ideas.

His revolved around getting back on the field in seven months.

He made his goal, but just barely.

Simpson had to pass a strength test with his left leg, the injured one. The strength in that leg had to be at least 80 percent of the strength in his right one.

It took him five tries but he finally succeeded a couple of weeks ago when he hit 80 percent exactly.

“I wanted to play,” he said. “I had to play. It’s my senior season. I have to do something and I want to try to play in college.”

Last week was the first time he practiced full contact.

The game for him against the Trojans was a strange experience. He had gained 17 pounds, most of it muscle, but he admitted some of it came because he couldn’t work out like he was used to before the injury. Simpson said that he wasn’t afraid of getting hit as much as he was afraid of accelerating on the outside.

“Mentally, it was tough,” he said. “I just didn’t trust my speed.”

McCormack said the injury has been good for Simpson from one perspective.

He is pretty serious about football now. He knows that he got a life line and he wants to make the most of it.

“He’s not a big talker,” McCormack said, “but was kind of a goof ball. He’s grown up a lot. He’s a different kid than he was a year ago. That injury really scared him when it looked like his whole deal could be taken away from him. He’s more mature and grown up.”



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