By Gaige Winchester
When you lose everything you’ve worked for, and when you face hardship or adversity, mentality can be everything. Sometimes the only thing getting someone through their tough times is a great mindset.
For senior Carson Wheat this was all he had. After years of working his way up the varsity football depth chart, he was set to be a team captain and a huge piece of the 2022 Eagles’ defense at defensive end. Only a few plays into his senior campaign, however, he came down with what would prove to be a season-ending knee injury..
When he first came off the field, he had some hope that the pain he was feeling wasn’t what it turned out to be, a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“I’d never hurt my knee like that before,” Wheat said. “I tried to walk on it, but I couldn’t keep pressure on it so I knew something was seriously wrong.”
He said, when he first did it, he believed it was only partially torn. In a snap judgment, the Muncie Central trainer said he didn’t think anything was torn. After hearing this, Wheat took the next week, Columbia City, off before suiting up for a few plays against Shelbyville the week after.
He said the pain was pretty bad but he could play through it at that time. The next week was the big game against rival Yorktown, and nothing was keeping Wheat out of that game. He suited up and played every defensive drive for the Eagles.
He finished the Yorktown game in pain, but was still able to play. It was the following Tuesday, while in practice, that Wheat felt something in his knee snap. This would be his last play, as he made it off the field knowing what had happened. He went to get an MRI the next day to find out the news he already knew. He was done playing football forever.
He went on to have surgery to completely reconstruct his ligament. After this surgery he was told he would need crutches for six weeks.
He only needed them for four weeks before he ended up being cleared by his doctor to be able to walk again. He has been regularly attending physical therapy and is making a strong recovery so far.
Keeping a great mindset through this hardship isn’t really a choice that Wheat made, however. It’s in his DNA.
“He has an infectious smile, and he always brings a positive attitude to everything he does,” football head coach Chris Overholt said.
Although Wheat was able to stay positive throughout this time, it wasn’t always easy for him to keep a smile on his face.
“Once I tore it, those practices during the Mount Vernon week took a toll on me,” Wheat said. “I tried not to think about it, but I knew in the back of my mind that this was probably it.”
He said at that point he knew it was his number one job to be a great teammate. This is the reason he decided to continue attending practice every day through the end of the season so he could give the players under him insight on how to become the best football players they could.
Moving forward with the recovery process, Wheat will try to continue having that aura about him.
“With how long the recovery process is for this type of injury, I’m just trying to keep a positive attitude through it all,” Wheat said. “When this is all over, I’ll be walking again and I’ll hopefully be able to get a job at UPS.”
Wheat said he has great friends and teammates around him, which is part of what has helped him get through this time. He said he wants to shout out his girlfriend, Mia Ramsey, and his parents, Chris and Amy, for checking up on him every day and making things easier. He also said his football teammates kept him up through the process.
“Carson’s a great guy. He’s a team-first, me-second kind of guy, and if we just help him through this time, he’ll come back just fine,” teammate Dylan Manor said.
Although his playing career is over he thinks that it ended the way it’s supposed to and with the correct timing.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Wheat said. “My mom came in to talk to me a couple days before the surgery and said maybe this was God’s way of saying it was time to be done playing.”
High school football is physically demanding because from late June to late November, in some cases, teams practice daily with one goal in mind: hit your opponent as hard as you can, every play.
“I could’ve been paralyzed at any time,” Wheat said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, it’s dangerous.”
If everything would’ve gone according to plan with his senior season, Wheat still may not have played in college if given the opportunity.
“Obviously everyone growing up wants to go to the big stage and play,” Wheat said. “I kind of just liked the high school football life, and I didn’t really want to advance.”
He said he just wanted to start his life and branch out. He wanted to start college, get a job and meet new people, but if he would’ve been able to play this season, he doesn’t know if his mind may have changed.
One of Wheat’s favorite things to do is play pickup basketball with his friends and in intramural leagues. In the future, he plans to take classes at Ivy Tech — paying for them with the wages from his prospective UPS job — and he hopes to get back to playing pickup basketball.
All of those things will be enabled by Wheat’s good spirit and great mindset to conquer what some might see as a crisis not to be overcome.