Homecoming isn’t for another week, but for one Keller football player, a homecoming of sorts is on the calendar for this week.
It was the second game of last season, in a game against this week’s opponent — McKinney — and Keller running back Liam Ardigo was pulling in another screen pass when he planted, turned and his right knee told him his season was over.
A year later, the Indians are again facing McKinney in the second game of the season, and Ardigo is ready to show he’s left the memory long behind him.
In the season opener, Ardigo rushed for 127 yards against Abilene Cooper, albeit in a losing cause.
But the Indians are a more mature and experienced team, including Ardigo, even if he didn’t have a full season to compete last year.
Ardigo had torn his ACL and meniscus in his knee. Surgery was completed to repair the damage and the initial prognosis was a 7-9-month recovery and rehabilitation.
“It only took five months to get clearance and I was able to play in spring football,” Ardigo said. “The entire spring season was really awkward, though. They had to teach me how to play football again and how to trust myself. I hated the coaches then, but can’t thank them enough,” he said about the frustration of being held out of so many drills in the spring workouts.
Because he thought his playing days were over, the 5-10, 193-pound Ardigo said he’s developed a renewed appreciation for every snap.
So, with the McKinney game ahead of him, does he have any anxiety about getting past this game on the schedule, one year later?
“I got most of my nerves out in the Mansfield scrimmage. I feel a lot more confident,” he said.
Taking on defenders isn’t something Ardigo shies away from but given the opportunity, he said he’s not hesitant at all to plant a foot and make a cut. “If someone’s in front of me, I’ll hit them, but give me a chance to cut, I’ll cut,” he said.
Whether he’s running over or around would-be tacklers, Ardigo is looking to compile at least 1,500 yards this season and show schools at the next level he’s ready to continue playing. He’s had discussions with some schools already, but he expects to make this season one which draws even more interest.
All the work to rehab and prepare for this season has paid dividends beyond just getting back on the field.
Ardigo said that his times in the 40 have dropped from 4.7 down to 4.53 and that at a camp this summer, he actually clocked a 4.43.
And he hasn’t been playing the game very long, either.
Ardigo said he begin playing football when he lived in Playa Del Carmen in eighth grade before moving to Keller. Football wasn’t referred to as the same sport as when he also lived in Italy or his birth country, Egypt.
“I speak three languages and English is my worst,” he said. Italian, then Spanish rank as his more proficient languages, although he has easily picked up on the Texas dialect.
“It’s definitely been different when it comes to eating and how to dress and the way I speak,” he said of the transition. “I try to mix the cultures.”