Healthy, happy

Stone overcomes tearing same ACL 3 times to shine for Gordon

Gordon (Ga.) College outfielder Jody Stone has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee three times in the past four years, but that hasn’t kept the sophomore off the field. Stone wasn’t sure he wanted to keep playing sports, but a friend told him to give baseball one more shot and he wound up with the Highlanders and at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

By the time Jody Stone had his third surgery on the same knee, he wasn’t sure if he could or even wanted to play sports again.

His faith, family and friends didn’t let him give up on his dreams and aspirations.

Now, the Gordon (Ga.) College sophomore is not only playing, he’s helping the Highlanders make a run in their first Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

He hit a three-run home run in Gordon’s 20-13 victory over Jefferson (Mo.) College on Tuesday night.

“It felt like a dream (hitting a home run in the World Series),” Stone said. “I remember watching and thinking, ‘Is this really happening right now?’ Hard work pays off, I guess.”

Stone first injured his right knee in his final home football game of his high school career when a defensive player pulled Stone down by the collar after he scored on a 60-yard touchdown run.

The injury ended his football season and cost him the baseball season, but he still signed a letter of intent to play football with NCAA Division II Valdosta State (Ga.) University.

“I thought I was a better baseball player anyway,” Stone said. “I didn’t play my senior year, so that killed my baseball career.”

Stone made it through the regular season his freshman year with Valdosta State. He tore the same ligament again in a postseason bowl game.

He had surgery during Christmas break for the second year in a row.

“I remember thinking, ‘Why does this keep happening?’ ” Stone said. “I didn’t understand it. I was disappointed, a little depressed and very discouraged.”

Stone couldn’t help but wonder if his athletic career was over, but his family didn’t let him quit.

“I have a lot of support from my family and people from church,” Stone said. “(Valdosta) still let me rehab and keep my scholarship.”

He redshirted his second year there because he missed spring ball with his second torn ACL.

His rehab went well, and he had his brace removed by the summer.

Before he was scheduled to report to Valdosta for practice, he went on a cruise with his church family when he tore the ligaments in his right knee again.

“I was playing dodgeball, went to throw, and (the right knee) snapped,” Stone said. “After that one, I was definitely ready to hang it up. I told my coach and everything. He said it was up to me, but I could keep coming if I wanted. I thought if the opportunity is there, I’ll keep going.”

Stone rehabbed all spring and was getting ready for another shot at football when he went on a family vacation. His friend, Hart Mizell came along and talked him into giving baseball another shot.

“I told my parents I was thinking about going back to baseball,” Stone said. “My whole family prayed about it. I prayed a lot actually. I said, ‘God, if it’s your will for me to play baseball, let it work out.’ Everything worked out. I felt it was an answer to prayer.”

Mizell was playing at Middle Georgia College and got Stone an opportunity to try out.

Stone gave it a try even though he hadn’t swung a bat or thrown a baseball in three years.

The coach said he could walk on and try to make the spring team, but he suggested Stone try Gordon College because the Highlanders had some positions open because of graduation.

Mizell’s younger brother, Aaron, who signed with Gordon, talked to coach Travis McClanahan for Stone. A spot opened, and Stone took it.

“We brought him in and saw everyday he got better and better,” McClanahan said. “He got better all spring. He doesn’t have the big numbers, but he sat out three years. Once he got in the everyday lineup, we continued to see how much better he is.”

Stone doesn’t have to wear a brace anymore, but he wears it as a precaution because of all he’s been through with the knee. It may not be any coincidence he’s made it past the Christmas break without tearing it again.

“Every time I tore it, a thought went through my mind: I wanted to quit. I told my parents maybe it’s not meant to be, and I was cool with it,” Stone said. “The main thing is I put my faith in God. If I didn’t have faith in God, I probably wouldn’t be playing sports now.”


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