Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball career as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites, and for eight years served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by Morningside Books, in Dayton, Ohio.  Widely knowledgable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the country.  Involved with a number of writing projects, he and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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A great story of disappointment, a dark cloud, and the silver lining that helped Ft. Loramies’ Ryan Humphrey not only survive his senior year, but contribute in ways he never thought previously.

It happened sometime in the second quarter of the opening football game of the season.

Ft. Loramie vs. neighboring rival, Minster, and Loramie senior quarterback Ryan Humphreys remembers it this way.

“I was scrambling out of the pocket, looking for an open receiver downfield…someone to throw to.    I ran out of time and the rush caught me with a pretty good hit.  I went down and something in my shoulder popped.  It hurt, but things like that happen in football and it usually goes away.

“At halftime I could tell something was wrong, but I didn’t want to come out of the game.  When we went back out to warm up I tried to throw, but something was wrong with my shoulder.  After I would throw the ball it locked, and I had to take my other hand and twist my throwing arm so that it went back into place.  I really didn’t think about it being that serious, but apparently it was.”

It was a long night for Humphreys.  Not only did his team lose the game, the Redskins’ offense was embarrassed by its lack of points, lack of yards gained, and for the fact that the Humphreys and his eventual replacement, Seth Guillozet, didn’t complete a single pass.

In the hospital emergency room after the game Humphreys’ night took on nightmarish proportions.

“The doctors told me I had a broken shoulder and that my season was over,”  he remembers.  “I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I had been injured before.  I had had surgeries before.  And I always came back.  It was a pretty bad feeling.”

It happens every year to someone playing high school football, or any high school sport…the inexplicable, the unexpected, the unanticipated.  The injury that cuts short the dream season of an adolescent’s life.  His or her senior year…the year when the spotlight, the accomplishments, the honors for which they’ve prepared so diligently are simply swept away by fate.  Ryan Humphreys never saw it coming…never believed it could happen to him.

A three-year starter at quarterback, Humphreys not only loved the game and the position, he had excelled at it under new coach Matt Burgbacher.  The Redskins had qualified for the playoffs in both of Burgbacher’s first two years as coach, in large part due to the cool, cerebral execution of the offense by Humphreys.

“He’s a very smart kid, and he’s very committed to anything he does,”  says Burgbacher.  “He studied the game plan.  He watched film.  He knew what had to be done on the field.  We communicated well with each other.  He knew what I was thinking and I knew what he was thinking, things like that.  He could make the throws and he knew when to run.  Most of all, he just liked to compete.  The other players looked up to him and he enjoyed being a leader.”

But its hard for some to be a leader with their arm in a sling, standing on the sideline.  Ryan Humphrey, however, took it upon himself to overcome such an obstacle.

“At first, when I realized I wouldn’t be playing the next week it was kinda’ nightmarish.  But I also realized that it was my senior season, and there was still an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

“You learn things about yourself, and I learned that there’s other things to life than just sports.  I decided that my senior year wasn’t going to be something I remembered as just standing on the sidelines.  I tried to become a stronger person.  I discovered I could lead from the sidelines.  We made it to the playoffs again.    The nightmare turned out to be a good senior year.”

While junior Seth Guillozet assumed his position at quarterback, Humphreys became his biggest supporter and advocate, but not without some internal conflict.

“That next Friday when I wasn’t on the field I thought my world was over.  I knew it was just a game, but I loved football and it was a struggle to turn loose.  But I received a lot of support from people in the community.  People rallied around me.  They called, sent cards, and stopped me on the street.  The coaches took me aside and assured me that everything was going to be fine.  Coach Burgbacher is a tremendous guy.  He made sure that I was just as involved as I was on the field.  He got me game plans each week and made sure that I knew I was still important.

“Seth did a great job.  I like to call him my best friend and I tried to be there for him every week, every time he came off the field.  At the beginning I thought it would be hard to watch him take my spot.  But after a few days I realized that while my senior year was supposed to be “my” year, that it would also be my last year in football, too.  I wasn’t going to play at Stanford next year, so why not be as supportive as I could be for him.  I can tell you…when he threw his first touchdown pass I was tickled to death for him.  I knew that if he was successful the team was going to be successful, too.”

"I'm looking forward to medicine," says Humphreys. "There's always change and improvement. Someday I'll be able to help someone with less pain and stress than the procedures that I went through."

There was more to Ryan Humphrey’s nightmare than just missing football.  A projected starter for coach Karl Ratermann on the Redskins’ basketball team, the 6’2″ forward-to-be never saw a minute of action in that sport, either.  Surgery and rehab prohibited the threat of even the slightest contact with his right shoulder.  What began as a lost season of football soon became a lost year of competition altogether.

“When I went to the emergency room that night they told me that I’d never play football again,”  he adds.  “That’s when I thought my world had ended.  The next day I went to see Dr. Heckler at Wilson Sports Medicine and he told me my options…rehab as best I could with a chance to get back before the end of football, or immediate surgery.  If I had surgery he said basketball was definitely out.  As it was, I was able to rehab enough to come back in the seventh game and hand off on some plays, and believe it or not, I actually scored the last touchdown of the season in our playoff game with Minster.”

He never played basketball, choosing to have reconstructive surgery after football, but as with football, Humphreys was still there on the sidelines, adding what he could for the benefit of his teammates.

“I learned that there’s different ways of leading and helping a teammate,”  he says, smiling.  “The role changes when you’re not in the game anymore.  When a kid comes out he’s usually going to get yelled at for something that happened in the game.  I could do that when I was on the field or in the game.  I could yell at someone.  But on the sidelines I tried to be the encouraging voice, to reassure guys that, ‘Hey, you’re gonna’ get it’,  if you just keep working.”

“He was great,”  said Ratermann during what turned out to be an uncharacteristic losing season for the ‘Skins.  “His example is remarkable.  His attitude is constant.  He’s always positive and he’s always involved some way.  He’s definitely an asset to the younger guys learning their way.”

He’s now healed, physically and emotionally.  His year, his season, and the end of his high school career is within sight as Ryan Humphreys prepares to graduate Sunday with a 3.94 grade point average, the salutatorian of his class.

He’ll attend Ohio State next fall where he’ll major in pre-med, planning to eventually enter the field of orthopedic practice.

“During football I probably saw Dr. Heckler once a week.  I saw him enough to develop a great relationship with him.  He knows that I want to go into medicine so he’s offered this summer to let me come in and observe when I want to.  We’re pretty close.

“I had always thought about medicine before my injury, but since then I think I’ve focused on it as a way of giving back, to help someone the same way I’ve been helped throughout this year.  Actually I’ve had a few different surgeries and medicine is a field where there will always be change and improvement.  It’s an exciting field and you get to work with people, and I think I have a pretty good personality for that.”

He looks forward to the day when he can give something back.  He knows it’s inevitable…the day when a high school athlete comes to Dr. Ryan Humphreys with a busted-up shoulder.

“I’ll look at him and tell him I’ve been in his shoes.  The good thing is that by that time technology will have made treatment and rehabbing less painful and even more efficient than it’s been for me…less stressful.   The long incision I have on my shoulder will then be three little holes.”

He’ll tell you come Sunday that his nightmare wasn’t so bad after all.  Ryan Humphrey has discovered that there “is” more to life than sports, and a lot more life “after” sports.  The engaging smile and the reassuring voice of one whose been there may again soon be on the sidelines telling some kid, “Hey, you’re going to be fine.”

“If that’s what he ends up doing, sports medicine, I can’t imagine anyone better than Ryan Humphreys,”  says Matt Burgbacher.  “He’ll be great at anything he sets out to do.  I trusted the game to him as my quarterback.  I’d feel just as good if I had to trust him for a hip replacement.  I just hope that’s a few years down the road.”

A hundred-year tradition of great food and great service to the Shelby County community, the Spot is proud to sponsor local sports and coverage of the 2012 state baseball tournament on Press Pros.

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