Kansas.com

Carroll’s Harvey completes improbable road to playoffs

Published Nov. 8 at 7:33 p.m. | Last updated Nov. 17 at 8:20 p.m.

It was the beginning of June, and Melissa McAsey cried the entire way to Hutchinson.

“I thought, you know, I’d get it out of the way on the drive over there,” McAsey said. “Because there was no way I was going to cry in front of my son. He needed me to be positive.”

McAsey’s trip to pick up her son, Bishop Carroll senior wide receiver Bryce Harvey, came after a phone call from coach Alan Schuckman to tell her that Harvey had suffered what they thought was a major knee injury during a football camp.

Doctors confirmed as much several days later, when they discovered an ACL tear and a partial meniscus tear in his right knee.

“Everybody always says you hear a ‘pop,’ ” said Harvey, an All-City League pick in 2011. “I heard the ‘pop’ and as soon as I tried to get up … it wasn’t good.”

And when doctors told Harvey about his injuries, they followed it up with even worse, albeit obvious news – just two months from the start of practice, he would miss his senior season. Anterior-cruciate ligament injuries, typically, take nine to 12 months to recover from.

“I was there with him, for support, and kind of the way I think and approach things … I wanted to give Bryce some hope,” Schuckman said. “So I asked, ‘What about state?’

“The doctor looked at us, waited a second … then said ‘Maybe.’ ”

That unlikely prognosis sparked a fire inside of Harvey.

“I didn’t want to make it dramatic, I didn’t want to make it some kind of pity party,” Harvey said. “I had to keep it all positive. People would come up to me and say ‘I’m so sorry, Bryce,’ and I would say ‘It’s OK, I’m coming back.’

“I think they thought I was a little crazy.”

Harvey’s first small victory on the comeback trail came when his surgery was pushed up to June 15 because the swelling around his knee wasn’t as bad as a typical ACL tear. It’s usually three weeks between the injury to surgery but Harvey had his just 12 days later.

“Then, they told me I had to be on crutches for six weeks, where I couldn’t put any weight on the knee at all,” Harvey said.

Harvey began walking, tenderly, on July 27. And to say he threw himself into his rehabilitation would be a bit of an understatement. Every moment of every day turned into an opportunity to make his knee stronger.

“If I was watching TV or sitting, I was doing the leg lifts or using the medicine ball for the exercises the trainer taught me,” Harvey said. “And in the beginning of August, after just a couple of weeks of walking and doing weight-bearing exercises, I went back into the doctor and he asked me how I felt. I told him I felt great and asked him what he thought.

“He said I looked great and I was going to be back. After I heard that I started working even harder.”

Harvey got that news around the same time Carroll was starting practices.

“I knew we’d have other kids step up, because that’s just what their mentality is,” Schuckman said. “What I was more concerned about was losing his leadership ... but he never missed a practice, except for when he was at rehab for his knee.”

If all Harvey could do was encourage his teammates, he did it. If all he could do was spot the ball, he did it.

Harvey’s teammates marveled at his progress — going from a sense of grief over losing one of their best players and their friends, to a sense of ... what if?

“He wanted to be back with the team so bad and you saw that and it was just heartbreaking,” Carroll quarterback Zeke Palmer said. “But then you saw the work he was putting in and the determination. It was amazing.”

Soon, Harvey began to run. Then, he began catching passes.

Somehow, coming back for the playoffs was no longer an option. Harvey played his first game on Oct. 26, a 49-12 win over Liberal on Carroll’s senior night.

“I kept double-checking, asking as many people as I could if they were sure he could play,” Schuckman said. “The most amazing thing to me is that all the people around him were so bummed out, but that was never Bryce. He always stayed positive. He always knew.”

Harvey had seven catches for 71 yards in last week’s 51-27 Class 5A playoff opener and will be on the field again Friday night when Carroll (10-0) travels to Andover (8-2) to play in the state quarterfinals.

After the win over Liberal, McAsey stayed up late, waiting for her son to come home.

When he finally walked through the door, she walked over and gave him a big hug.

This time, she didn’t need to hide her tears.

“Did you have fun?” She asked.

Harvey looked down at her and smiled.

“I had a blast,” he said.

Reach Tony Adame at tadame@wichitaeagle.com or 316-268-6284.