In his junior season at Monticello, nothing could slow running back Kyree Koonce down. Through five games, he amassed more than 800 all-purpose yards and scored 14 touchdowns, but a broken fibula in October cut his first season with the Mustangs short.
"It's heartbreaking," Monticello head coach Jeff Woody says of the injury. "You lose sleep over it. You get gray hair over it."
"You can't take anything for granted," Koonce says. "You're one play away from getting injured. That could've honestly ended my career playing football for the rest of my life, and so now I'm just taking it, and knowing that it could go away at any time."
Koonce had never missed a game in his football career until last season. After his injury he spent the remainder of the year on the sideline, trying to focus on helping his teammates as a vocal leader.
"I had a bunch of positive people behind me helping me stay motivated and pushing me to stay strong through the whole time," he says.
"Kyree is the type of guy that's always going to have a smile on his face," adds Woody. "He's always going to be respectful. He's going to walk into a room and shake everybody's hand, but when he was on those crutches it would take him 20 minutes to get around the room, bless his heart."
After rehabbing from surgery, Koonce is now back on the field as Monticello's spring workouts are underway. When the Mustangs took the field last Saturday, it was his first time back since his injury.
"It was a great feeling," he says. "It was like I'm back home again. It's just something I've grown up my whole life doing."
"It was lovely to see him ripping and running," Woody said. "He's not full blast yet, but running, jumping, cutting and all that stuff. Most importantly, other than the fact that he's the biggest, strongest, and fastest out there was the mentality of leading by example that he took on, and that's what we need."
Koonce says one of his goals for the summer is to get his leg even stronger than it was before his injury. As he prepares for his senior season in the fall, the running back has some unfinished business he wants to take care of.
"I'm way more motivated than I ever was, because I feel like I still have plenty more to prove to people. I'm just really ready to get back out there and put the shoulder pads back on, the helmet, get back out there and win some more games. That's all I'm ready for."