Parling continues to fight adversity

GVL / Robert Mathews
Heath Parling looking to pass the ball deep against Ferris State.

GVL / Robert Mathews Heath Parling looking to pass the ball deep against Ferris State.

Bryce Derouin

I tore my ACL this past April and had surgery in May.

Fast forward to June, and for one of my first feature stories on the football team, I naturally decided to check in on junior quarterback Heath Parling’s progress and his preparation for the 2013 season.

Parling was coming off of ACL surgery as well, and was preparing for a quarterback battle with friend and roommate, Isiah Grimes.

When the usual interview questions for the story were over, I let him know I tore my ACL as well.

You know those random acts of kindness from strangers that you never expect, but when they happen, they can make your day?

After I told him I was going through the same thing, he asked me how I did it, how my rehab was going, and we basically just traded stories for a minute or two. From that point on, it’s been easy to cheer for him.

Okay, you’re probably saying to yourself, “What’s the big deal here? Dude just asked you how you were doing. Nothing to see here, moving on.”

Look, I would never wish tearing an ACL upon anyone and I’ve met some crappy people in my life. For me, my rehab took a little longer and I wasn’t making as much progress as I had wanted. I wanted to come back quicker than Adrian Peterson. Looking back, I now realize how dumb that was.

The worst part for Parling and I was the fact we were used to being active, and physically, be able to do whatever we wanted. You go from being able to run—and in Heath’s case, play Division II football—to barely being able to lift your leg off the ground.

That’s not even taking into account the numerous rehab exercises you have to do each day and the pain in your knee that at times, can be excruciating.

By August, I was behind in my rehab and sitting in my house all summer and with no golf or anything, my frustration levels were at an all-time high. That’s why Parling’s simple gesture to ask about my rehab and me, meant a lot.

When he was named starter for the season opener against Azusa Pacific University, it was nice to see just because you don’t like to see someone lose his job due to injury, and because I could relate to how much Parling had to go through to get back to himself.

Since then, Parling hasn’t been able to catch a break. He suffered a rhomboid tear in his back shoulder muscle in the Azusa Pacific game, and went onto miss the next three games.

Parling returned against Michigan Tech University, where he completed 19 of 24 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-3 GVSU win. He then started against Ferris State University, only to suffer another shoulder injury, which would force him out of the following game against Northern Michigan University.

Looking at his history, it would be easy to make the assumption that he’s injury prone, but that would be the lazy approach of looking at it.

Torn ACL’s are completely random. Take a look at Adrian Peterson, and you’re going to tell me that guy is prone to injury?

With Parling’s shoulder, head coach Matt Mitchell thinks the rhomboid tear was due to Parling being competitive and attempting to win the starting job and overcompensating for his lack of lower body strength on his throws. On his latest injury, Mitchell attributes it to Parling getting his shoulder driven into the ground repeatedly, on a night when the GVSU offensive line played its worst game of the season and failed to protect its quarterback.

“Sometimes in football, you get players who are ‘softer,’ or seem to find the training room more than others,” Mitchell said. “Heath Parling is not that person at all.”

Now, Parling’s status is up in the air as GVSU travels to Northwood on Saturday.

You could look at it as he got hurt and missed an extended period of time, or you could look at it as he was injured in two games, but managed to tough it out and finish both contests while battling injury.

If I was playing with a guy who’s faced as much adversity as Parling has, and is someone you know who will fight with you till the end—even while playing through injury—that’s someone I wouldn’t mind taking the field with.

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