Texico senior Tony Clement has returned from knee surgery to play wide receiver and cornerback for the unbeaten and top-ranked Wolverines. (Staff photo by Eric Kluth)
By John Eisel: CNJ sports writer
A lot has happened since Tony Clement landed awkwardly in a summer league basketball game two summers ago.
Knee surgery. Six months of rehabilitation. Days of self doubt and lots of frustration.
On the field, the 6-1,190-pound Texico senior wide receiver is back to his old self, as evidenced by his three touchdown catches in Friday’s 47-7 win over Clayton. He also plays cornerback for the Wolverines (3-0), who host Eunice Friday.
“He’s going 100 miles per hour, and that’s what you need to do,” Texico coach Mike Prokop said.
Clement has also matured, according to the Texico coaching staff.
He doesn’t let little things bother him anymore, Prokop said. In practice, he tutors the younger players and has improved in the classroom. Teammates even voted him captain.
“I’m just trying to do the best I can with the ability that God gave me,” Clement said.
“He realizes that at any given time he might not be able to play anymore,” Texico offensive coordinator John Irwin said.
For six months, that feeling was real.
At the end of his sophomore year in 2003, he landed awkwardly on his left knee on an uncontested lay-up in a summer league basketball game. Clement felt a pop and then pain in his knee.
Hoping it was a sprain, Clement took a few weeks off before trying to play again. The pain didn’t go away.
Clement had torn his anterior cruciate ligament and did damage to the meniscus, a piece of cartilage in his knee.
His junior football season was over after an all-state caliber sophomore year at defensive back. Even worse, if Clement had the surgery in early June, he could have been back for basketball. Instead, he had surgery in August and it was spring before his knee was healthy enough to play sports again.
“You can’t really explain it, you’re crushed, really,” Clement said.
While Clement rehabbed his knee, the Wolverines football team went undefeated and won a championship.
Clement was still on the sidelines during basketball season. Texico basketball coach Rich Luscombe said last year’s basketball squad lacked scoring and depth, two things Clement could have provided. Texico advanced to regionals, but were pounded by Hope Christian.
“I wish I had been out on the court to do something,” Clement said of that game. “That was about the worst moment, right there.”
He returned in time for track, but said his knee was only about 70 percent and Clement had to take pain killers for his knee after he worked out.
“It was like if you had a knife in between your knee,” Clement said.
Through the entire ordeal, Clement had the backing of his dad, who told him, “Your time’s coming, you just have to keep working harder and harder at it.”
Clement hit the weight room over the summer and ran during breaks while working at a dairy over the summer.
By the start of the season, Prokop said Clement was physically where a senior should be, and playing like he never missed a beat.