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Tried, but not Defeated: A Story of Hope

(Photo by Heather Burchinal)
Reed Scudder inside the North Lamar Panther’s locker room.

Coming into the 2012 – 2013 school year, anticipation was running high for the Scudder family. Scott was returning for his fifteenth season as a North Lamar assistant coach. He and his wife, Tracy, have three kids highly involved with Panther athletics. Reed, the oldest, would be a Senior and a starting cornerback on the Varsity football squad. Trey, the middle child, was entering high school as a freshman and would be playing quarterback for the ninth grade team. Kylee, the youngest child was going into the eighth grade and would be playing volleyball.

(Photo by Tony Corso)
Reed making a tackle in the scrimmage against Prairiland

Keeping up with this type of schedule would be hectic for any parents, but then throw in the fact that one of the parents is coaching and the schedule gets crazier. Scott was looking forward to the season, though. He was excited about being able to work with Reed on the Varsity team. Being the cornerbacks coach would allow Scott to work directly with his son. Also, with Trey in High School, Scott would also have more impact on him as a football player as well.

Most parents enjoy watching their kids play sports but you might say the Scudders have learned to enjoy every moment that is given to them. Two years earlier, they watched as the ability to play sports was taken away from both of their boys for almost a year.

August 19, 2010 – North Lamar was gearing up for another season, and on this day they found themselves scrimmaging Quinlan Ford. Reed Scudder played wide receiver, safety, and some quarterback for the junior varsity squad. Reed wasn’t a passing quarterback, however. When he was under center, it was to run the “Wildcat Offense.” This is an offense in which the quarterback takes the snap and either hands the ball off to the running back, or he keeps the ball and acts as a running back. Very rarely does the quarterback throw the ball during this type of offense. The Panthers lined up in this formation and Reed took the snap. He darted around the right side of the offensive line for a pretty substantial gain. However, the play was called back due to a holding penalty. Since the play was successful and it was just a scrimmage, the coaching staff decided to call the same play again; however, this time Reed was to run to the left.

“I ran it,” Reed says. “There wasn’t much of a hole and I was trying to get out of bounds.”

Scott, Trey and Reed Scudder

Reed planted with his left foot trying to get out of bounds and as he did, he took a hit to his knee. Having hyper-extended his knee before, Reed didn’t think this was a big deal at first. Some of the Panthers helped Reed up and when they did and he tried walking, he knew something didn’t feel right. North Lamar’s Athletic Trainer Danny Bulls helped Reed off the field and got him to the field house. The scrimmage kept going so his dad stayed out with the team while Tracy followed Reed and Coach Bulls.

Reed and Tracy Scudder

After a quick evaluation, coach Bulls called Tracy into the coach’s office. “He pulled me into the office,” she said. “He told me, ‘you need to go get Scott.’ I asked him what is it and he said, ‘Well I think he’s torn his ACL.’”

Scott joined the family and Coach Bulls told Reed what he thought the prognosis was. In the midst of devastation and heartache, the Scudder family did the only thing they knew to do at that moment; they prayed.  The Scudders are devout Christians, with a firm belief that God is in control. During this time, they would rely heavily on their faith to help get them through.

October 19, 2010 – Reed had surgery to repair a torn ACL and a torn MCL on October 4th and was scheduled for his first therapy session on October 19. While at therapy with Reed, Tracy received a phone call from Scott that, once again, would put her faith to the test. Tracy was excited about the progress Reed was making in his first therapy session but was asked by Scott if she could come to the North Lamar field house. Trey had hurt his knee during football practice. According to both Tracy and Scott, Trey was the son who was always getting into things and doing stuff. For them to hear that he’d hurt his knee wasn’t unusual. As a matter of fact, when Coach Bulls interrupted a football drill that was going on to tell Scott about the injury, Scott first thought he probably bruised his knee or something similar. Coach Bulls looked at Scott and said, “I think he’s hurt his knee.”

Reed and Trey Scudder

“I knew right then when he told me that, it was not the usual,” Scott says.  Trey had torn his ACL and would also need surgery. Trey’s injury happened on the same play that Reed’s injury happened. However he was running the ball to the opposite side and he hurt his right knee.

The following year would be a long one in the Scudder household. Many questions were asked as to why this happened. Was there a purpose and a reason? Through it all, though, they remained strong in their faith, knowing ultimately God was in control of everything.  Tracy put a scripture verse on the boys bathroom mirror to help remind them of this fact. The scripture verse is Jeremiah 29:11, which remains Reed’s favorite verse to this day.

Recovery – Reed’s junior year would be his first year on the Varsity football team. Not quite sure what to expect coming off the knee injury, Reed would prove throughout the season that the knee felt fine. During the rivalry game against Paris High School, Reed intercepted the Paris Quarterback and took the ball 55 yards for a Panther touchdown. It didn’t matter at that moment if you were cheering for North Lamar or Paris High, people from both sides of the stadium were cheering for Reed. As the play happened and Tracy was cheering, her phone was receiving numerous text messages from other people in the stands. Many of those people were on the opposite sideline, but they were happy for Reed and what this moment meant in his long journey back. Not to be outdone by his brother, Trey would go on to win 14 medals in track during his eighth grade year.

(Photo by Tony Corso)
Reed intercepting a pass against Paris High during his Junior year.

August 18, 2012 – North Lamar opened up with a scrimmage against Prairiland after two weeks of intense practices. Coach Felty and his staff were excited to see what this team could accomplish in the first taste of live action. Scott was excited to have both his cornerbacks returning from last season and Reed was hoping to improve on his play from last year.  Individually, he hoped to improve on his tackling numbers and his receptions. Collectively, he hoped to help his team improve on the losing record they had last year. On this particular day, though, the Scudders would once again be asked to rely on their faith. The Prairiland quarterback dropped back for a pass and through it deep. Reed, having cheated up on the play, knew he was beat by the wide receiver. He hustled to try and get back to the position he was supposed to be in.

(Photo by Heather Burchinal)
Reed Scudder at R.L. Maddox Stadium

“I see the ball in the air and I’m panicking; trying to get back,” Reed says. “I did everything I can to get back and I planted with my left foot. I felt something wasn’t right. “

Reed fell to the ground and when he did, he felt pain. During scrimmages, the coaches will be on the field with the players as the play is happening. Because of this, Scott was about ten yards from the play as it happened. As Reed went to the ground, Scott walked over to see what happened. As he neared his son, he could tell Reed was in obvious pain. It didn’t take long for Tracy to get out of the stands and make her way to the field where her son and husband were. It didn’t take Bulls long to assess the situation and tell the Scudders what he thought the injury was. Reed had torn his ACL. It was an injury that would cause Scott to question his effectiveness as a coach this year. Could he continue to be effective with this looming over his family? These were thoughts that he was dealing with and trying to sort out. After having the MRI done and finding out for sure that he had torn his ACL, Reed went home and put Jeremiah 29:11 on his Facebook page.

“I was so proud of him,” Tracy said. “He had every right to be mad. He had every right to be angry. He had every right to say why is this happening to me. I’m a good kid.”

These are all valid points and valid questions that a normal kid may have in this situation. Reed has never been a problem child, never broken curfew, or given his parents reason to worry. Very seldom do they ever have to discipline him according to Tracy. Reed is an active leader in his youth group at East Paris Baptist. At the lowest point of his life Reed still showed his family and his friends that his faith is strong.

Scott, Tracy, and Reed Scudder

Ultimately the decision was made for Reed to have surgery and repair the torn ACL. The Scudder family knew what it was ultimately up for because they had gone through this two years earlier.  They know the next several months are going to be tough and grueling. The Scudder family isn’t alone in their journey. They have had tremendous support from family, friends, and colleagues that have reached out with words of comfort and support. The North Lamar Volleyball team hung a sign in the gymnasium that reads “Do it 4 Reed” and has Jeremiah 29:11 written on it.

Reed wants others who might be going through something similar to realize that it does get better. It may seem like the end of the world now, but it does get better. If Reed is an example of what could happen after a tragedy, then the outlook is bright. Reed is living each day with enthusiasm and hope that someone will see his faith and realize there is a greater plan.

From Left to Right: Cody Edwards, Reed, Kylee, Tracy, Scott, Trey
Sign hanging in the North Lamar Gym
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