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Newcomer recovers from knee injury: Rehabilitation was tough, but being forced to sit on the side lines was tougher
Jason Arens
Antelope Staff
Photo by Garrett Ritonya
Sophomore Riley Newcomer receives his first handoff in a game this season against CSU-Pueblo, rushing six times for 16 yards.

Things were only looking up for Riley Newcomer. The sophomore running back from Morrison, Colo., had just come off a stellar freshman year for the Lopers. Newcomer wasn’t expected to start his first year on the field but found himself getting carries on a regular basis due to multiple injuries in the backfield.

After rushing for a team-high 679 yards and eight touchdowns last season, he became only the second Loper in school history to have two 200-yard rushing games in a career, doing it in one season.

Newcomer was poised for a better season in year two. He was playing on a nationally ranked team, had an experienced offensive line, help from other talented players in the backfield and was named to the All-RMAC preseason team. But just one and a half weeks into training camp, it all came to a screeching halt— knee injury.

Newcomer had broken off a piece of bone on his kneecap, which required surgery and a significant amount of time on the sideline. The surgery entailed removing the pieces of bone from the kneecap and shaving the kneecap smooth to prevent grinding.

Up next was the grueling task of physical therapy. “I followed a close schedule for the first three weeks. From then on it was a week-to-week basis,” Newcomer said. He said it was important to get moving but also to keep the swelling down. 

Sure the rehabilitation was tough, but for Newcomer the pain didn’t compare to the grief he felt of not being able to play with the team. “It’s been hard sitting out and frustrating not being able to participate. I mean, Bill Murphy, Roy Stutz and the training staff did a great job. But it’s tough for any athlete in this position, but what do you do?”

A support cast is always crucial for an athlete rebounding from injury. “Pretty much the whole team was there for me. They’d always be asking how the rehab was going during practice. The coaches and training staff were there the whole way too.” Phone calls from the parents were concrete hold as well.

Bill Murphy, the head athletic trainer at UNK, talked about working with him. “Riley’s the type of guy you want to work with. He’s very respectful and has a great attitude, work ethic and pain tolerance. He’s a tough kid, so when he’s hurt, he’s really hurt. Otherwise the only time he’ll stop by the training office is to see how you’re doing.”

Six weeks after surgery, Newcomer got the OK to suit up for a matchup against CSU-Pueblo. He talked about getting on the field a few days before the game. “It’s going to feel good getting back. Our team has had great success early on, and our goal is to win the RMAC. I’m ready to play a role in our team’s success, whatever that may be.”

On Oct. 3 Newcomer took to the sideline padded up with the rest of his teammates. With around 13 minutes left in the game, the Lopers were well on their way to victory, and No. 34 checked into the game at running back. He carried the ball six times for a total of 16 yards. He looked quick, agile and above all, ready.

Things were only looking up for Riley Newcomer. The sophomore running back was back on the football field with his teammates playing the game he loves. Oh, how sweet it is.

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