By Evan Grice
For many high school athletes, especially football players, running out onto the field on a Friday night under the lights is as natural as breathing.
But, for Piedmont senior defensive player Blane Culp, this was something he wasn’t sure he would get to experience this season, or ever again in any sport.
At the end of football season in 2012, Culp suffered a shoulder injury, which at the time wasn’t severe enough to require treatment or keep the senior away from athletics.
True to his nature, Culp battled on during wrestling season, landing himself a third place finish at the State Wrestling championships, an improvement from his fourth place finish in 2011, but the celebration was short lived.
Culp was officially diagnosed with a torn labrum in his shoulder shortly after the state competition, which affected his joints and more importantly, his future in athletics.
“I can’t exactly remember what happened with the initial injury,” Culp said. “I just went on and wrestled with it just because it didn’t seem like it was that bad of an injury. It just got worse as time went on.”
“Being told I had to be away from football was something I had a hard time accepting.”
Six months of long, hard rehab would pass before Culp made his season debut this past Friday night at Boomer Stadium alongside his teammates against the Woodward Boomers.
“Being back with my team was a big driving force for me during the rehab process,” Culp said. “Stepping back out onto the field was one of the best feelings in the world for me.”
“My family has been great supporters during this time. They have never stopped believing in me and have kept pushing me every step of the way. I’m very thankful for them and everything they have done for me.”
“It was a long six months for everyone,” Blane’s Grandmother Judy Ross said about the rehab process. “Blane is always very active, and it was hard seeing him have to wear a shoulder harness to work in. I was a little overprotective as well when he would come to visit and want to wrestle in the pool.”
With several members of his family in attendance, including his mom Jenise, father Joe, his brother Braden, sister Hanna and his grandparents Steve and Judy Ross, along with grandparents J. Juan and Denise Jech from Kingfisher, Blane stepped onto the field for the first time this season.
After a quiet first quarter, Culp finally got his moment in the second quarter, when he brought down Woodward running back Xavier Vo for a seven yard loss on a 4th and 4 play. But, the best was yet to come on the night.
At the 3:14 mark of the third quarter, the Boomers were driving on the Piedmont 45 yard line, facing a 2nd and 10 situation. With the snap of the ball, Culp raced around his blocker and wrestled WHS quarterback Kale Hixon to the ground for a 10 yard loss, which was immediately met with a loud cheer from members of his family sitting up in the stands.
“That was a very special moment for all of us as a family,” Ross said about Blane’s sack. “We were all so excited to see him play, and it was even better that he made a tackle like that. It meant the world to us when he acknowledged us on the sidelines after he got back.”
Blane added his coaches deserve a lot of credit for the play call which led to his sack.
“The sack was great don’t get me wrong,” he said jokingly. “But, our coaches called a blitz on that play, which was a great call by them. I just kept my eye on where I was supposed to go and things just happened to work out the way they did.”
Culp would later get another tackle for a loss in the fourth quarter of the game as his team fought its way back to within six points of the Boomers on the night.
“I’m wanting to unite this team especially the defense now that I’m back,” Culp said. “Football is a lot of fun and it’s about having your team be united so that you can be successful together on the field.”
“I want to help lead by example not just with my words but by my actions as well,” he added. “I’m excited to be back on the field and ready to get to work and just have fun.”
Culp and his teammates will be back in action this Friday night at Stout Field as the Wildcats take on Cache with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.