In the second quarter of Oklahoma’s Week 11 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown, the Sooners suffered an injury to the back of their defense that stopped the team.
Redshirt fifth year senior defensive back Justin Broilesa team captain throughout the year and one of the veteran leaders of a team with many new faces in 2022, went down with an apparent lower body injury that looked serious from the start.
For a moment, everyone thought Broiles’ season—and his collegiate career—was over.
So does Broiles, who admitted he realized his playing days in a Sooners uniform felt like they had come to an abrupt end.
“I did. I definitely jumped out of the deep end a little bit, just because you see so many knee injuries and things like that,” Broiles said this week. “I just knew I couldn’t even move it at the time. While I was trying to to keep my balance, my mind wanted to keep racing off the deep end. The more I thought about it, I was like ‘Dang.’ But it’s all good because it’s all God, so I’m back out there playing.”
As his mind raced in the aftermath of the injury, Broiles did everything he could to stay committed to the task at hand – believing he would have a chance to be back.
“Understand that it’s all good because it’s all God,” Broiles said. “That’s what gave me that confidence when I was standing there. I’ve broken a fibula before. I’ve had bruises. I’m here at this point, so that means I’ve conquered all of that. It is what it is.”
But after a brief period of frustration and fear of the worst, the captain did what he always does: he tried again to help his teammates, who were visibly shaken at the sight of their fallen comrade.
“Once I got up and said everything was fine, there was nothing I could do about it now,” said Broiles. ‘I’ve been here before. I took myself back to my fibula injury. When I was a young cat I had a bruised heel. All the injuries that I had and things like that, all the hardships that I have overcome, I have overcome before. I’m going to overcome this. That’s just how I got myself out of that space. I gave myself about two minutes to cry and then I heard ‘Punt team up.’ I said, ‘We have to stop. Okay cool let me out of this place. I am fine. Like, I don’t care anymore. Like, I’m good. We can worry about that later.’ Doctors were mad at me and things like that. But I’m like, ‘You’re all going to be mad at me later. We have a game to go to win. I can’t help being here.”
Broiles’ teammates relented after his injury cast a cloud over the rest of the game that was hard to escape knowing what the team meant to him and what he meant to the team.
“He’s kind of the heartbeat of this team,” linebacker DaShaun White said after the 23-20 loss to the Mountaineers. “When I saw him go down, it took me a while to get out. He is the heartbeat of this team. Everyone loves him. Seeing him lying there was kind of rough. Hope for the best.”
In a fortunate turn of events, the best everyone hoped for actually came to fruition. The severity of the injury everyone had feared turned out not to be the case, as Broiles was diagnosed with a hyperextended knee.
While certainly still nothing to scoff at, Broiles was able to return to the lineup the following Saturday for Bedlam against Oklahoma State – the last home game of his career in which the Sooners won 28–13.
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“Oh man. I didn’t get emotional until later,” Broiles said. “And that wasn’t even really an emotion, but more like thank you God. It was more gratitude than anything because I’m pretty sure it will probably hit me at the end of the season, but once that game was over, it was more okay, what’s the next game?
Broiles’ return to the field certainly provided an emotional boost for Oklahoma heading into the rivalry game in what has undoubtedly been a challenging season in Norman.
With Broiles assisting the offense, the Sooners put up arguably their best defensive performance of the season, stifling the Cowboys and forcing four turnovers.
“He’s (Broiles) a leader we need,” defensive back Billy Boogman said. “He’s a great guy and he’s a fighter. There was no doubt that if he had the chance to come back he would come back and play. He’s a fighter and it’s great to have such a leader with us to have.”
But while Saturday’s Bedlam victory in his last collegiate home game was something he will remember forever, it’s now in the rearview mirror.
As he always has, Broiles now looks forward to things to come as Oklahoma prepares for a road battle at Texas Tech to close out the regular season.
“That’s how we’re building this program from a what’s next mindset,” Broiles said. “Be thankful for the present moment, but always strive to get better. Everyone is digging and can’t wait to get back into that movie and see what they could have done better, to see how we could have made that game much better on all sides. I’m pretty sure it will probably hit me after the season, but right now my mindset is Texas Tech.
The Sooners will battle the Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, TX on Saturday night at 6:30 PM CT.
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