GVSU senior recovers from serious knee injury to get back to football and track teams

GVL / Archive
Matt Armstrong competes in the shot put during a previous

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GVL / Archive Matt Armstrong competes in the shot put during a previous

Evan McMillin

When any athlete suffers a season-ending injury, it can be devastating. For Grand Valley State University senior Matt Armstrong, it was twice as worse.

Armstrong is a two-sport athlete for the Grand Valley State University football and track and field teams, which made his road to recovery from a serious injury more arduous than others.
In the spring of 2011, Armstrong was participating in football drills with the rest of the linemen when he damaged his knee.

“I was going through our offensive lineman steps and all of a sudden I just felt something pop in my knee,” Armstrong said. “There was no immediate pain but I could feel something moving around. It ended up being a big piece of cartilage.”

Armstrong is an offensive lineman on the varsity football team and a shot-putter and discus-thrower on the varsity track team. He was given a medical redshirt in 2011, so that he would not lose a year of eligibility.

Armstrong then had to undergone bone graph surgery, which requires the removal of dead bone from the affected area and replacing it with pieces of new bone, which came from his shin, along with donated cadaver chips.

He then underwent 12 weeks of intensive rehab where him learned to walk again. It was eight to nine months of total rehabbing before he could conduct any football or track related activities. However, none of that stopped Armstrong from getting back to competing.

In his first track and field appearance since the 2011 outdoor national championship, Armstrong finished third in the shot put with an NCAA Division II provisional qualifying mark in the Bob Eubanks Open.

“You’ve got to make sure you stay committed to doing the rehab,” Armstrong said. “Don’t do more than the doctor allows you to. Then just wait your time and keep doing the rehab and you’ll be fine.”

Competing in both football and track made the rehab process even more crucial as he’s a vital component to both teams.

In football in 2009, Armstrong was named All-GLIAC Honorable Mention and the GVSU Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 2010, he was named to the First Team All-GLIAC plaudits and was a key part of the offensive line.

He understands the importance of how the right training helps a multi-sport athlete get ready for competition.

“I think they go hand in hand together, honestly,” he said when comparing the training processes for both sports. “I enjoy doing both. Both sports involve being athletic and being explosive, so both bring benefits to what each sport is trying to do.”

Jerry Baltes, head coach of the GVSU men’s and women’s track teams, has been impressed with the way Armstrong has battled back from his injury.

“He’s been very diligent with his rehabbing,” Baltes said. “He’s been very supportive of the other throwers and athletes on the team, so he’s done a great job not just working hard to get healthy again, but he’s been a great teammate to everyone.”

While no athlete ever wants to suffer through an injury, Armstrong did see part of it as sort of a blessing in disguise.

“It helped me realize that our bodies aren’t going to let us play sports forever,” Armstrong said. “I’m a student athlete. I’m in college, I’m here to play football and do track, so a lot of my time is consumed with sports, you know, so I think I lost track of why I was in college. I need to keep in focus why I’m here — to get an education.”

You can next see Armstrong and the rest of the track team as they play host to Eastern Michigan University, Central Michigan University and Hillsdale College in a scored meet at the Kelly Family indoor center at GVSU on Jan. 26. That night they will also host a University of Michigan and Michigan State University dual meet at the same venue.

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