Stankiewicz Hoping to Come All the Way Back
Aug. 22, 2012
CHICAGO – The foot was stuck in the carpet-like turf during an indoor soccer scrimmage when Michael Stankiewicz was victimized by a slide tackle from behind.
DePaul’s sophomore midfielder from Mt. Prospect was training in early December with the AAC Eagles club team in Chicago when he sustained the same knee injury that sidelined Bulls star Derrick Rose.
“I felt a dull pain and knew right away something was wrong,” said Stankiewicz as he prepared for the Blue Demons’ season opener Friday against Illinois-Chicago at Wish Field. “When I found out the extent of the injury, I was in shock.
“I’ve had sprained ankles and stuff like that, but never an injury like this one.”
Stankiewicz had his operation performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nikhil Verma on Dec. 20th at Rush University Medical Center---where Rose would undergo his surgery five months later.
“The hardest part was the wait to recover,” Stankiewicz said. “The first couple of months I sat on the couch with my knee in a brace and had so much time to think.
“I could do some therapy, but all I thought about was how much training I was missing and how much I would have to make up.
“In my mind, the worst thing was going to be seeing my teammates out there working their hardest and I’m sitting on the bench unable to help them.”
Stankiewicz turned to his family, coaches, teammates, friends and the Blue Demon sports medicine staff for support and encouragement. Fellow Blue Demon Ray De Leon spoke about overcoming two injuries.
Former DePaul standout Alex Mangan shared his experience of coming back from a broken left foot, broken right foot and a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his career.
After nearly five months of therapy, Verma allowed his patient to do a little running.
“It was on a treadmill, and it felt just awesome and amazing,” Stankiewicz said. “From that point on, everything started clicking. I went from a jog to a run to a sprint.”
As a precaution, Stankiewicz refrained from any soccer competition over the summer and focused on his overall fitness.
“After his first fitness test, Stankiewicz showed us he was ahead of last year,” said DePaul coach Craig Blazer. “We know he has a ways to go in his progression of playing live and getting into soccer condition.
“He has shown great discipline and determination in recovering from such a serious injury. His teammates can see how hard he works and how much he wants to win.”
Blazer has brought him back gradually, playing Stankiewicz for 10 minutes in the first scrimmage. After that, Blazer inserted him for 20 minutes in the exhibition season opener and for 30 minutes in the second exhibition match.
In Monday’s 1-0 victory over Milwaukee that culminated the exhibition season, Stankiewicz was on the field for 50 minutes
“Everything that I had to endure and all the tough times, I kept thinking that the prize at the end was to come back and play soccer better than ever,” Stankiewicz said. “That’s what kept me going.
“While I was sitting on that couch, I watched a lot of soccer on TV. I could see that I wasn’t as fast or athletic as those pro soccer players. But I could become smarter at DePaul with better vision on the field.
“I haven’t lost my touch. All those months when I couldn’t run, I worked a lot on my touch.”
Stankiewicz was primarily a defensive midfielder last year and could see more offensive opportunities this season.
“He’ll be an attacking or holding mid for us depending on our needs,” Blazer said. “He needs to keep his game simple. When he does that, he makes good decisions.
“Michael shoots the ball well, and we want to get him in good position to do that.”
And that’s just fine with John Stankiewicz.
“All my dad wants me to do is score goals,” Michael Stankiewicz said with a laugh. “If I played goalkeeper, he’d want me to score goals.
“I guess he’s just like all soccer dads.”