In the second quarter of Oklahoma’s Week 11 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown, the Sooners suffered an injury hit at the back end of their defense that halted the team in their lanes.
Redshirt fifth-year senior defensive back Justin Broilesteam captain all year and one of the veteran leaders in a team with many new faces in 2022, went down with an apparent lower body injury that looked serious from the start.
For a moment, everyone thought Broile’s season — and college career — was over.
That includes Broiles, who admitted realizing his playing days in a Sooners uniform felt like they had come to an abrupt end.
“I did. I definitely jumped out of the deep end a little bit just because you see so many knee injuries and things like that,” Broiles said this week. “I just knew I couldn’t even move it at that point. While I trying to keep calm my mind wanted to keep racing out of the deep end. The more I thought about it, I thought, ‘Damn.’ But it’s all good because it’s all God, so I’m back out there playing.”
Broiles did everything in his power after the injury to stick to the task at hand – believing that he would have a chance to be back.
“To understand that everything is good because it is God,” Broiles said. “That gave me this confidence when I was standing around. I used to break my fibula. I had bruises. I’m out here at this point, meaning I’ve gotten over it all. It is what it is.”
But after a brief period of frustration and fearing the worst, the captain did what he always does – tried again to help his teammates, who were visibly shaken to see their fallen comrade.
“One time I stood up and said everything was fine, now there’s nothing I can do about it,” Broiles said. “I’ve been here before. I brought myself back to my fibula injury. When I was a kitten, I had a bruised heel. All the hurts I’ve had and things like that, all the hardships I’ve overcome before. I will overcome this. That’s the only way I got out of this room. I gave myself about two minutes to cry and then I heard “Punt team up.” I said, ‘We have to stop. Okay, cool, let me get this tent out. I am fine. Like, I don’t care anymore. I am fine. We can worry about that later.” The doctors were mad at me and things like that. But I’m like, ‘You’ll all be mad at me later. We have to win a game. I can’t help but be in here.”
Broiles’ teammates admitted after the fact that his injury darkened the rest of the game, which was hard to escape from knowing what the team meant to him and what he meant to the team.
“He’s sort of the heartbeat of this team,” Linebacker TheShaun White said after the 23-20 loss to the Mountaineers. “It took me a while to break away from it to see him go down. He is the heartbeat of this team. Everyone loves him. Seeing him down was pretty tough. Hoping for the best.”
In a fortunate turn of events, the best that everyone had hoped for came true. The severity of the injury everyone had feared did not materialize as Broiles was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee.
While still nothing to scoff at, Broiles was able to return to the lineup for Bedlam against Oklahoma State the following Saturday – the last home game of his career in which the Sooners won 28-13.
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“Oh man. I didn’t get emotional until later,” Broiles said. “And that wasn’t even really emotion, more like a thank you to God. It was more gratitude than anything because I’m pretty sure it probably made me the most.” will score at the end of the season but once that game was over it was more like it was ok what’s the next game?
Broiles’ return to the field has certainly given Oklahoma an emotional boost as he headed into the rivalry matchup in what was undoubtedly a challenging season at Norman.
With Broiles leading the offense, the Sooners put up arguably their best defensive display of the season, choking the Cowboys and forcing four turnovers.
“He’s (Broiles) a leader that we need,” defended the defender Billy Bowman said. “He’s a great guy and a fighter. There was no question if he had a chance to come back, he would come back and play. He’s a fighter and it’s great to have such a leader with us.”
But while Saturday’s Bedlam win in his last college home game was something he will remember forever, that’s in the rearview mirror now.
As he always has, Broiles is now looking forward to what lies ahead as Oklahoma prepares for a street fight at Texas Tech to close out the regular season.
“That’s how we’re building this program out of a ‘what’s next’ mentality,” said Broiles. “Be thankful for the present moment, but always strive to be better. Everyone is digging and can’t wait to get back into this movie and see what they could have done better, to see how we could have made this game a whole lot better on all sides of the ball. I’m pretty sure it’ll probably hit me after the season, but right now my mindset is Texas Tech.”
The Sooners will take on the Red Raiders Saturday night at 6:30pm CT at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, TX.
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