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Grosse Ile’s Mitroka back from injury, ready to lead PHOTOS

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Last September, Andrew Mitroka was feeling good about his season.

He had led his Red Devils through three weeks of the football season with an unblemished record and had already recorded 10 touchdowns.

He had 494 passing yards, averaging over 100 a game and 28 pass completions. On the ground he had another 405 yards in 49 carries.

But one second in a game against St. Mary Catholic Central just before halftime, changed not only Mitroka’s football season, but set a tone for the next year of his life.

Mitroka suffered a season-ending injury that resulted in a torn ACL, torn meniscus and sprained MCL.

It was his first sports injury ever.

Grosse Ile did manage a winning season without their top quarterback, but finished 2013 with a 5-4 record, just missing the playoffs.

For Mitroka, the game was just the beginning of a long road to recovery.

A few days after the injury, an MRI showed just how significant the situation was; Mitroka had to have reconstructive surgery three weeks after the game.

“I was devastated,” Mitroka said. “I broke down and couldn’t believe the reality of the situation.

“This was my first sports injury every; I had never broken a bone or missed games before this happened.”

The junior set out on his own personal journey to recovery, while still keeping involved with his team at Grosse Ile.

“As the team captain, I still had to help the team as much as I could being on the sideline,” he said. “I didn’t miss a practice and spent most of the time helping the backup quarterback with plays and getting caught up.

“I did my best to be positive and be a leader, even though it was a very hard time for me.”

Post-surgery brought a long rehabilitation process for Mitroka, one that he said tested his mental strengths more than once.

“My doctor said he wasn’t sure if I would be able to run track in the spring, let along be competitive, and it would depend on how well physical therapy and my recovery went.

“(So) I set this goal to be competitive in track, which helped motivate me during the PT process.”

Mitroka made it out on the track this spring and by the end of the season he was being competitive and winning races.

“Running track helped me with confidence that rolled right into football,” he said.

Despite that confidence, getting back onto the football field wasn’t an easy task.

The physical aspect of the game comes easier than the mental aspect.

“I think he’s over a lot of the physical (and) now I think it’s just the mental part,” football and track Coach John Bodner said. “We got a little bit of contact in the scrimmage, but it was kind of controlled. Now we have to go through a whole game and be confident that he’s gonna hold up.”

Bodner says moving into 2014, he is looking for Mitroka to find a balance.

“Sometimes last year he tried to put everything on him and we’re trying to stress that you can’t do it all on your own,” he said. “(We told him) take what the defense gives you and don’t try to get everything on one big play.

“Being out a year and watching, he’s matured in that sense. We saw that a little bit in the scrimmage; being smarter with how he’s handling himself.”

Bodner is confident about his quarterback and he heads into his final season.

“Getting hit, having soreness; those are all gonna be things that are a part of it,” he said. “He’s gotta get used to wearing a brace, but he’s definitely worked hard. His rehab in the work room and he’s gotten stronger.”

Mitroka agreed that the mental aspect of the game was the more challenging side.

“I was very nervous stepping back on the field and it was intimidating at first and the thought of getting hurt was still there,” he said. “So to deal with the mental side of this process, I set goals, gained confidence everyday and reassured myself by thinking about the people that have helped me recover.”

Mitroka said he would not have made it through recovery without the support of his parents, his surgeon Marc Milia, his PT trainer KC and his specialized trainer Anna.

“I truly believe I wouldn’t be as far in my comeback if it wasn’t for the support of these people,” he said.

A speaking of comebacks, Mitroka is set to debut his tomorrow when the 2014 season kicks off.

It has been a long road for the now senior; 342 days to be exact. But Mitroka has high expectations for himself and his team and believes all his hard work and pain will pay off in the long run.

“Overall this journey has been long, hard and painful, both physical and mentally,” he said. “However, I have worked harder and overcome more than I ever thought was possible and have become a better person because of it.”

Last Updated: 8/26/2014 3:02:57 PM EST