One injury, two struggles: How football made lasting effects

The continuing impact of a collision during the 2019 WCAC football match

Antoine Littleton's running back had a solid start to his freshman season earning a red jersey at Maryland.
Antoine Littleton’s running back had a solid start to his freshman season earning a red jersey at Maryland. (Jill Burton/AFP)

Antoine Littleton II had just finished another football practice at the University of Maryland when he returned to his College Park apartment to eat shrimp for dinner.

As he sat down to eat in early May, Littleton scrolled through his Instagram feed and paused at a post. she was video Created by a person who records their depression after multiple sports injuries, including one that caused him to quit football.

Littleton had his guilt cleared, but he reappeared when he was watching the video.

Growing up in New Carrollton, Littleton developed his identity around football. The young coaches put the huge kid into a defensive tackle, but when Littleton got back to the kickoff at 50 yards when he was 10, they tried him in other locations. On Littleton’s first play as a quarterback, he ran on the option to read an 80-yard touchdown. He moved on to jogging and earned the nickname “Baby Bus” as a seventh grader.

He continued that reputation at St. John’s, where he grew to 285 pounds and generated widespread interest in scraping high school defenders; Featured TV Game Show Pushed Nationally in September 2019 Rapper Will Tweet about it.

Two months later, on another tour, Littleton hit DeMatha’s defensive back in a play that went on to affect both peoples.

This defensive back, two years later, produced 32 minutes video to inspire others. When Littleton saw this, he came out of his kitchen and called his mother to express his grief. He lost his appetite.

As children, Cole Donaldson and his older brothers would play soccer from their knees on the living room rug, resulting in bruises and a passion for the sport.

At birthday parties, Donaldson’s father, Cliff, sprays lines on their backyard for touch-up engagements. Every Friday night in the fall, Donaldson and his family would attend games at the local high school, Queen Anne County, where Donaldson would run around the track with friends.

During one of his first matches with the Lions’ Upper Queen Anne when he was 8 years old, Donaldson told a family friend on the sidelines, “When I first touch the ball, I’m going to run for the touchdown.” In the first play of the scrimmage, Donaldson received a delivery and broke for 70 yard.

He went to play DeMatha, and on the morning of November 16, 2019, he woke up to an autumn breeze from outside his window. He showered, had breakfast, and drove to his father’s Honda for the 90-minute ride to Hyatsville, where he would meet the Staggs in their parking lot for a spin before heading to St. John’s for a semi-final game at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

Donaldson, a sophomore who has received attention from the Power Five, asked himself on Saturday while wandering the corridors of his school, “When I look at myself in the mirror [after the game]-Can I be proud of myself? “

After a 25-minute drive to northwest Washington, Donaldson finally got off the bus, preparing for the biggest game of his life.

As Donaldson took a deep breath and strapped his wrists to the visitor’s side, Littleton practiced receiving handovers on the field.

John’s led 10-0, and with 6:19 left in the first half, he lined up at the 19-yard line. Cadets called out for Littleton’s outdoor running play; Called the Stag Defense Zone. Littleton took the delivery and ran about 11 yards to his right while Donaldson remained stuck with an opposing wide receiver.

When Donaldson, 5 feet 11, 165 pounds, saw Littleton running toward him, he stopped and bowed. Before Donaldson could take a proper tackle position, Littleton tripped on his back and hit him with his knee. Donaldson heard a snap and fell on the grass.

His colleagues asked Donaldson to stand up, but he couldn’t. Wendy Norris, DeMatha’s coach, ran into the field, felt Donaldson’s back and asked his fellow coaches to call an ambulance.

“Wait,” Donaldson remembers Norris saying. “What do you mean to call the ambulance? Mrs. Wendy, I don’t ride in the ambulance. I can’t do that.”

As reality began, Donaldson burst into tears. He believed that his sports career was over.

Watch Littleton from the other side discuss what happened with his colleagues. As the ambulance drove on the grass, DeMatha players crowded around Donaldson. His mother, Susan, ran towards him.

“Are you well?” She asked. “Yes, mom,” Donaldson answered tearfully. “I’m good.” Donaldson’s mother preached the hardness after growing up on a Virginia farm, and for the first time, Donaldson saw her cry.

The coaches removed Donaldson’s helmet and shirt and tied him to a stretcher. Paramedics took Donaldson to the ambulance. The players of DeMatha and St. John is near him to perform the Our Father.

Littleton refocused and rushed for a seven-yard touchdown with 3:54 left in the game in the Cadet’s final 34-20 victory. Meanwhile, medics rushed Donaldson 20 minutes to Medstar Washington Hospital Center.

‘What am I doing with my life?’

Donaldson couldn’t sleep that night as he listened to a heart monitor and watched his father fall asleep in a chair. Donaldson’s feet were warm, so he shuffled his legs in an attempt to take off his socks; After 20 minutes of failed attempts, he cried.

Donaldson asked himself, “What am I doing with my life?” “I feel so useless and helpless. I might as well be dead.”

The next day, Donaldson learned that he had fractured three lumbar vertebrae supporting his spine. Doctors said a return to sports might one day be possible. Donaldson was diagnosed with Lyme disease at the age of nine and has suffered five serious injuries since then, including to his thigh bone, collar bone, shoulders and knees. He was not ready for another long rehabilitation.

Littleton felt a different kind of annoyance when he watched the film on Monday afternoon at St. John’s Hall. After the theatrical screen came up, he couldn’t stop replaying the sequence in his mind.

See YouTube video of the play Every day that week as the Cadets were preparing for the weekend’s WCAC Championship match. He thought about how he would treat Donaldson differently. Talk to the coaches about his guilt. They told Littleton that the injury was not his fault.

In the hospital, Donaldson walked out limping on his third day and went home, lying in a bed with half a dozen pillows. He was indifferent to the schoolwork thrown by friends.

A week later, Donaldson told his father that he was leaving the sport. He’d been commuting across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge every day to attend school and receive conscription exposure, but he didn’t want to go back to DeMatha. After completing his fall semester, Donaldson attended Chesapeake College, where he later earned a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

Donaldson spent most of his time in bed, became fond of films and studied actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Reynolds and Matthew McConaughey. Donaldson told his father that he now wanted to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an actor.

While pursuing new endeavors, Donaldson often watched the YouTube video of the semi-final game. To this day, he cries every time he sees her.

“There is no hate in my heart”

In February 2020, Donaldson received his first acting gig to play a US Marine in a series about the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings. Same month, Littleton Committed to Maryland. When the coronavirus swept the United States in March of that year, they both lost some structure in their lives.

Scrolling through Instagram in November 2020, Littleton saw that Donaldson was post pictures To acknowledge the day he was injured. Littleton believed that Donaldson hated him, but failed to contain his remorse, sending a letter to Donaldson.

“I think about this play all the time,” Littleton wrote. “I never meant for any of that to happen.”

“Brother, listen,” Donaldson replied. “There is no hatred in my heart for you.”

While Donaldson’s response provided relief, Littleton changed his playing style, learning when his aggression might not be worth the cost. Faster and more skilled in outdoor running plays, he scored his first collegiate touchdown in a Pinstripe Bowl win in Maryland last year.

Around the same time, Donaldson tried to lighten his mood by visiting his brother Grant in Tampa while he was starring in an upcoming movie. Donaldson felt worthless seeing friends receive offers of soccer scholarships and commit to Division I programs.

One day, he was up until three in the morning crying. Donaldson looked at his own reflection in the bathroom mirror and accepted his circumstances. “I’m depressed,” he admitted. “I want to do something about it.”

Donaldson has been looking for an activity that provides the excitement and fulfillment of football. The 19-year-old has been involved in acting, modeling, video shooting, photography, dancing, training (both soccer and taekwondo), insurance sales and car wash.

“The sport has been a huge part of my heart,” Donaldson said. “And now it is a void.”

In the past eight months, Littleton has moved on to previous ideas that he is unfit for football by jumping rope in his spare time and cutting his meals, resulting in a 60-pound loss. Littleton often sees a tattoo on his right arm – a watch with hands showing the time 9:21 – to remember its meaning. It is in honor of the September 21 birth of his cousin, Reginald Lockardwho taught Littleton soccer before he was murdered in July 2008 in southeastern Washington.

In April, Littleton suffered a sprained left ankle in practice after tripping on grass. While the 20-year-old was lying in a Maryland stadium, he thought he would miss the season. Then, he realized his pain couldn’t match what Donaldson endured.

Littleton said he texted Donaldson: “I told him any time you needed anything, I’d be a phone call away and vice versa.” “We don’t talk every day, but we know we got each other.”

In late June, Donaldson organized a youth soccer camp at Queen Anne County High in Centerville, in which his coaches and former teammates participated. As Donaldson posed for pictures and reminded him of people from his previous life, he felt a desire to return to sports. This has become possible in recent months.

After returning from Tampa, Donaldson began treatment to break up Lyme disease. Gain energy and exercise daily. His dream of playing in the first division program is still alive.

Meanwhile, in Maryland, Littleton took advantage of the name, image, and example to create and sell goodsincluding T-shirts with “BABY BUS” on the back.

In the first load of the freshman season in Little Red on Saturday, Littleton rushed into the middle for a gain of 21 yards In Terps victory over Buffalo. after he Scored On his first touchdown in the ensuing play, Littleton spread his arms and listened to the chants in College Park as one of the offensive linesmen raised him.

Back in Centerville over the summer, Donaldson explained to his college-going friends that he was focusing on acting this fall. Cheer on camp participants as they record with his Canon camera. After the two-hour clinic, about 50 children gathered near a colorful lion in the midline and raised their arm.

“Family in three,” shouted his father.

While the players were counting, Donaldson stood alone a few meters from the group, raising his camera to capture the interior of the gathering.

After returning home – where Donaldson wrote “I’m a hero!!!” On his bedroom door and framed his T-shirts – he turned on Beat Saber, a virtual reality dance game.

“I’m going to have to put my shoes on for this,” Donaldson told a few family and friends as he put the game on hard mode and removed his white trucks. After his success with the nearly three-minute song, Donaldson removed the VR headset and sighed. “Dang, this is a shoulder exercise,” he said. “I can not breathe.”

Donaldson sank into the couch. When he and his friends were discussing the game, Donaldson grabbed a soccer ball and rotated it in his hands.