Oct. 4, 2000
It was a game just like any of the previous 43 Dee Foard had played since coming to Florida State as a freshman in 1997. She took the field against Wake Forest on September 19th and had a typical Dee Foard game. She anchored the defense and played her usual role as a vocal team leader. It was a tough game for the Seminoles. FSU traveled to Winston-Salem and came up a goal short. As the closing seconds ticked off the clock, players were starting to head off the field and then it happened.
“People were walking off the field in the last few seconds and it was a freak accident,” Dee recalls. “My player was going for the goal and as I cut my cleats stuck in the ground and my body twisted and I heard a loud pop and it was my ACL, MCL and four tears in my meniscus and part of my femur, then she fell on me to top it off, which might have increased the damage.”
Dee had never been seriously injured in her entire playing career, which spanned 17 years at that point. That kind of record led Dee to believe she was indestructible. It wasn’t arrogance, it just never entered her mind that she could suffer such a devastating injury.
“It was hard for me to accept the fact that I wasn’t unstoppable or unbreakable,” Dee said. “My first thought was `am I going to lose my starting spot’ but I wasn’t sure how severe the injury was.”
Dee was originally supposed to be out for six weeks and she started rehabbing immediately. Her first step was to get into the weight room twice a day. She would work out three times a week and as the weeks went by, she increased her workout schedule. Her rehab also included a lot of fitness work.
“I became a gym rat and that’s the last thing I ever thought I would be,” Dee said. “It was very hard for me, after playing so much my first three seasons, to sit and watch my teammates instead of being on the field with them.”
After suffering her first injury and rehabbing for almost two months, Dee was ready to start practicing again. Then, in another freak occurrence, Dee reinjured the knee in warm-ups at practice. After all the hard work to get back, Dee suffered her second injury in the span of two months.
“I was very disappointed but the second injury just made me want to comeback even more,” Dee remembers. “I didn’t want to let the previous six weeks of work go to waste. I couldn’t face the fact that there wouldn’t be any more games for me. I couldn’t allow that to happen. ”
Many people would have given up after their second serious injury in such a short span. Knowing that you have to do all that work again with no promises that you won’t wind up in the same position would have been enough incentive for many athletes to call it a career. That wasn’t the case with Dee.
“The second injury actually gave me more focus and gave me a new positive outlook on the situation,” Dee said. “It was like a whole new epiphany on how I was going to get back. It made me look at my second rehab with more urgency.”
What was supposed to be six weeks worth of work has now turned into almost 12 months. With the help of numerous doctors, trainers and strength and conditioning personnel, Dee started all over again.
“I’m still playing on a partial ACL and a torn meniscus, which they will operate on after the season,” said Dee. “If I had got those operated on, I would have never had the chance to make it back for this season.”
Dee continued to work hard. She spent hours in the gym, she worked on her fitness and she tried to strengthen her knee. Rehabbing is a process that a person often goes through without their teammates and Dee had to motivate herself to keep going. Her teammates didn’t always see the time she put in when she was rehabbing. It was a very solitary process.
A year after her injury, Dee finally made it back on the field. She entered the September 24th game against Florida International University to rousing applause from the Seminole faithful but it wasn’t the end of the story for Dee.
“When I got back on the field against FIU, it just wasn’t the closure I was looking for,” Dee said. “When I am 100% go and I can give all that I can, I will feel like I am back. I hope that can be this weekend against Wake Forest. I want to start enjoying the senior year I worked so hard for.”
That’s right, Wake Forest is back this weekend and Dee believes this will be the perfect time to allow her some closure to what has been a year full of challenges. The Demon Deacons are facing the Seminoles today and Dee can’t help but think of what happened last year.
“Wake Forest is like a ghost,” Dee said. “I believe that everything happens for a reason but I can’t help but get a little ticked off when I think about that game. Everyone was walking off the field when I got hurt. Playing against Wake today would be great closure for me. It would be the final chapter in a long road back. I won’t get back on the field unless I am 100%, though.”
When Dee gets on the practice field, she doesn’t even think about the injury and that was an important hurdle for her to clear. She got her confidence back during the rehab stage and she knew she would comeback and she knew she would comeback strong. What Dee still worries about is earning back the respect she had before the injury. Respect is the most important thing for her. Dee has to prove to herself, her teammates and her coaches that she is the same old Dee. But it’s not always easy to forget what happened.
“I try not to think about the past because sometimes it’s hard to deal with and think about,” Dee said. “It’s hard to accept that I have gone from the player I was to the player I am now. Focusing in on the last part of my senior season has been a great way to focus on the future and not on the past. All I am thinking about is getting back and playing.”
Dee is setting goals for herself and hoping it will be a positive way to motivate her to return to the team. At one point the goals involved starting and playing time but not any more.
“Winning back a starting spot is just an incentive now,” Dee said. “I just want to get back and be there for my teammates. I want to be there for coach Baker. I want to give back to Florida State soccer. I want to give back the heart, the passion and the courage for the sport. They recruited me. They’ve always come through for me. I feel that I need to give something back to my team.”
Dee hasn’t been able to enjoy the team’s success this season because she feels somewhat detached from the accomplishments. She has to be playing to enjoy the success and she feels that it wasn’t her presence that got FSU to No. 12 in the nation this year. So what would be the perfect ending for Dee this year?
“The ultimate for me would be playing in the NCAA Tournament during my senior season but this last stretch of games in the ACC is very important for me also,” Dee said. “This is the year Florida State is going to make a national impact and that is already happening. We are going to earn our respect this year.”
Dee has put her personal goals behind and just wants to focus on helping the team succeed and getting back in the game. She has been such a consistent presence in the back for the Seminoles and she wants to play a role again. But there is one personal achievement she wants to set before she leaves the program.
“I can take some pride in the part I played in getting this program to the point it is at now,” Dee said. “I want to be remembered as a player who loved the game and had a passion for soccer. I have given everything I have to this game and that’s what I want people to think of when they think about Dee Foard.”