Back in black, and loving it
Tyler Ousey, his right ankle wrapped heavily with white athletic tape, was filled with joy as he ran onto the Case Field grass.
Ousey, a senior defensive tackle for the Demons, had suffered a severe foot injury prior to the start of preseason camp that doctors told him would keep him off the football field at least through the end of the regular season. So to be back in a black No. 78 jersey and playing his favorite sport, Ousey was delighted.
“It was nothing I’ve ever experienced before, feeling-wise,” Ousey said of jogging onto the field during the first quarter of Washington’s game against rival Mt. Pleasant on Oct. 5. “I was hungry. Really hungry. I live for this stuff, man. This is what I do.”
Until it almost wasn’t. While playing in a pickup basketball game at Sunset Park on July 24, Ousey came down with a rebound but awkwardly landed on another player’s foot. He was in excruciating pain, but the real pain registered when his thoughts turned to the upcoming football season.
“My mom got there, and we got in the ambulance and I was just like, ‘Mom, what about football?’” Ousey said. “That’s when I actually started crying.”
Ousey had dislocated the heel on his right foot and torn every ligament in his ankle.
“Every ligament was destroyed,” he said. “The MRI came back and it looked like a grenade went off in my ankle.”
No surgery was needed, though. His heel was popped back into place and his ankle was wrapped in a splint. But the injury was thought to be season-ending.
“Their exact words were, ‘It would be tough to make it back at all,’” Ousey said. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m going to try to make it back for the Mt. Pleasant game.’ They didn’t want to tell me no, but they didn’t think there was a chance.”
“The initial diagnosis on him was we were going to be lucky to get him back if we made the playoffs,” Washington head coach Randy Schrader said. “So obviously he’s busted his tail in his physical therapy and done the things that he’s needed to do to get back on the field.”
He did. He pushed the limits on everything he did in physical therapy as he worked toward his return to the football field.
“Whatever my physical therapist told me to do, I just did it as many times as I could,” Ousey said. “Like the first day I got cleared to squat, I got cleared to squat 135 pounds. So I went and did it 124 times.
“I did 124 reps of 135 [pounds],” he added with a laugh. “I just did everything I could, man.”
Ousey’s right ankle is now a mass of scar tissue.
“It’s all scarred up, and it’s still pretty big,” he said. “It’s not swollen. My ankle is just bigger than the other one. It looks like a golf ball is sticking to my ankle on that side.”
Ousey hasn’t exactly been at full strength the last two weeks, making just one tackle in wins over Mt. Pleasant and Fort Madison. But Ousey, a team player, doesn’t concern himself with stats. And the 5-foot-11, 235-pound senior has added size to the interior of Washington’s defensive line.
“It’s not glory,” Ousey said when asked what he likes about playing on the defensive line. “You can’t really count pancake blocks or good spin moves. When I do my job, [linebacker] Garrett Covington gets the credit. So when Garrett, who I’m guessing is going to get some kind of all-district or all-state honors, gets that, that’s when I’ll be happy because that means I must have done my job for him to get there.”
Even though Ousey hasn’t made many tackles in his first two games back, his impact has been felt in other ways.
“He’s really our vocal leader,” Schrader said. “We don’t have too many vocal leaders on our football team, but Tyler is a vocal leader.”
He was a leader even while he was unable to play. On crutches, Ousey hobbled around the sidelines at practices and at games firing up his teammates.
“That’s one of the things I talked to him about,” Schrader said. “I said, ‘Even though you can’t play, we have to have you. I might have him one-on-one kids and just talk to them. If somebody was down, Ousey brought them up. If somebody tried to get too high, Ousey kind of popped their bubble.”
Ousey’s right ankle keeps getting stronger, and he could be a force to be reckoned with when the Demons take on Centerville this Friday night.
“You could see it in practice last night that he’s starting to be the Ousey that we expected him to be coming into this season,” Schrader said. “He’s gotten more physical. He’s getting more pushoff. He’s getting stronger.”
And as the Demons enter the playoffs, Ousey wants to show teams just how good he is.
“I just want to go as crazy as possible and try to show myself and everybody else that I’m back to 100 percent,” he said.
Ousey, the son of Chris and Tracy Ousey, wants to continue his football career in college next fall. He said that he’s got “stacks” of letters from Division III colleges at home, but that he hasn’t made a decision yet.
“I’m going to play football as long as I can,” he said.
After missing most of his senior season, who can blame him?