Mike Wynne could have walked away from football.
Many players would have, and Neshaminy coach Mark Schmidt, for one, certainly would have understood if his standout punter had opted to bid farewell to the sport after suffering a traumatic lower ankle break in his kicking leg during his team’s game against Harry S. Truman last season.
“The thing about Wynne that’s so great – that injury he had would scare anybody and make anybody think twice about trying to come back,” the Redskins’ coach said. “It was one of the worst I’ve seen, but there was not a hesitation in him at all.
“He was in the weight room doing upper body work with his leg all casted up. He was rehabbing in between lifting and running.”
And he came back.
Wynne has chosen to give up playing wide receiver, but he is the Redskins’ punter. And he has come back strong.
“He’s punting at an all-league level,” Schmidt said. “When he can, he’ll jump in and help out with the scout team. He’ll run a couple of routes, but he just can’t do it day in and day out because that ankle gets really sore.
“He just goes out and tries to help the team the best he can.”
Wynne has been punting since he was an eight-year-old playing Pop Warner football.
“Coaches saw I had the leg strength to punt the ball far, and as the years went by, I was able to punt the ball further,” he said.
The injury that could have ended his career occurred while Wynne was seeing action at wide receiver in the Redskins’ 62-14 win over Truman in September of last year.
“He was developing into a really good kicker,” said Schmidt. “We put him in the game (at wide receiver), and he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Wynne was blocking downfield when the injury occurred.
“Our running back got tackled behind me into the back of my leg, and that’s when they fell on it,” he said.
The injury – a broken tibia and fibula and dislocated ankle– required immediate surgery and then a lengthy rehab.
“I was in a cast for two weeks,” he said. “After they took it out, I wasn’t allowed to walk on it. I went to physical therapy for two-and-a-half months.
“I felt bad because I wasn’t able to help my team at all. I just knew afterwards what I would have to do to prepare for this year.”
Six months after his initial surgery, Wynne had a second surgery to remove the metal plate. Once again, he went through physical therapy and eventually was able to begin running and conditioning with his teammates.
“It was definitely harder because of the impact it had on my ankle,” Wynne said. “When I first started punting again, I wasn’t too happy about it, but I knew I would have to keep working with it, and it would come back to me.
“Because of my ankle I wasn’t able to do a lot of leg strengthening things in the beginning. I did a lot of work trying to bend the ankle and trying to get it more flexible. I wasn’t able to do a lot of squatting, so I thought maybe repetitions of punting would get me back in the spot I needed to be.”
While the injury took its toll, Wynne never gave serious consideration to quitting football, and in December, he will be attending a kicking camp at Rutgers with his sights set on a collegiate career.
“Hopefully, that will get me some attention since I didn’t have a junior year,” he said. “I feel like if it wouldn’t have happened I would be doing better than I am now, but I’m still trying to do what I can right now with what I have. Halfway through the season, I felt a difference in my ankle – how tired it was because of my broken ankle.”
Tired ankle aside, Wynne is enjoying every minute of his final high school football season.
“I am definitely excited knowing we got here with the record we have,” he said. “Since we’ve been doing good, I haven’t gotten that many punts. When I have a chance, I try to put our defense in a good position.”
According to his coach, Wynne – who knows how to pin opposing teams deep in their own territory – is highly regarded by his teammates.
“The best thing about him is his attitude,” Schmidt said. “He’s not the biggest talker in the world, but he shows up every day, and he’s really earned the respect of every member of our football team.
“They love him to death. Even last year as a junior – we had a good number of seniors, and the next day after his injury when he was going through surgery, the hospital was packed with our kids. He’s just that kind of guy.”
The kind of guy every football team needs if it hopes to be successful.