Torii Hunter Jr. broke his left femur on New Year’s Day during a practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. He had reconstructive surgery on Jan. 2nd and doctors said the future Notre Dame wide receiver would be sidelined between six and months.
Hunter Jr. is ahead of schedule, well ahead of schedule.
In fact, he could even end up being cleared to play baseball at some point this month.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder from Prosper High School (Prosper, Texas) has been walking for almost two months, but just started attacking the physical portion of his rehabilitation about two weeks ago. As seen in the video below, the process is coming along quickly.
“It’s definitely encouraging,” Hunter Jr. said. “It makes me want to push more. When you start seeing results, you don’t want to stop. (My physical therapist) is going to keep packing on the work. He has no problem with that.”
There’s no more pain in the leg, just a lack of strength.
“You can tell it’s weak,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt at all. It’s just hard to do because it’s just so weak. You’re trying to flex that muscle as hard as you can to keep your balance or push off something. That’s why I make those faces because it’s just so hard to try to focus and get those muscles firing.”
But he feels the strength coming back.
“Every time I go in there, I can definitely feel it getting stronger,” he said. “It’s just very, very weak. You can tell the difference between the two legs. I can jog right now, but it’s very limpy, so I don’t really do it. You can tell the difference between the right and left leg.”
His father, Major League Baseball player Torii Hunter, broke his ankle in 2005. He’s been able to provide some support and offer a hyperbaric chamber for his son’s use. Hunter Jr. typically brings his computer for the roughly two-hour sessions in the chamber.
“It’s supposed to send fresh oxygen through your body,” he said. “I don’t know the whole scientific deal, but it’s supposed give oxygen to help heal the body and rejuvenate it.”
Hunter Jr. should find out exactly how far ahead of schedule he is when he sees his doctor again on Wednesday.
“I went about six weeks ago and he was saying I was moving along better than any patient he’s ever had and if I felt good at this next doctor’s appointment that he could clear me to play baseball,” Hunter Jr. said. “I probably won’t, but I have another two weeks before my senior night. If I feel good enough, I’ll probably go back to the doctor and see if I can get cleared.”
That wasn’t even a thought three months ago.
“Not at all,” laughed Hunter Jr.
He isn’t sure if he’ll do it, but admits it is tempting.
“It would feel good just to be back on the field,” he said. “Even if it’s just one at-bat and I pinch-hit for somebody. It would just feel good to be back on the field one more time.”
Either way, his primary goal is to be 100 percent by the time he moves to South Bend on June 15th.
“That’s what my physical therapist is aiming at,” he said. “That’s why he’s pushing me so hard.”
And Hunter Jr. said he’ll “easily” be back to full strength at some point during his freshman year.
He felt for Louisville’s Kevin Ware, who broke his tibia during an Elite Eight basketball game on national TV last weekend.
“That was pretty awful,” Hunter Jr. said. “I definitely could feel his pain. Mine didn’t break the skin, but as far as being injured at a crucial time and the thoughts that probably ran through his head, I could feel his pain.”
If he could give Ware any advice, Hunter Jr. said he’d tell him to keep his family and friends close.
“I would say to just cling to your loved ones because they’ll always be there for you and they’ll always keep you in good spirits,” said Hunter Jr. “That’s what I had to do. If I didn’t have them, there’s no telling how my mindset would be right now.”
Hunter Jr. isn’t too surprised with his progress or the way Adrian Peterson returned from a torn ACL last season.
“Honestly, I think it’s just the will to want to be back,” he said. “If you have the right doctors and everything like that and the technology, that’s definitely going to help, but if you want to be back and you want to put in that work and go through all of the pain and put in that extra work outside of therapy, it can happen.
“Good athletes have a different mindset than the other ones. That’s why Adrian Peterson, Kevin Ware and me can come back from such injuries.”