- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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A couple guys I grew up playing soccer with would react to any contact play with the kind of dramatic tension only my theater-directing mother could appreciate. They would wail and writhe and eventually they would stand up, but not before limping feebly for a minute or two, milking every last ounce of potential sympathy from an otherwise nondescript occurrence. And then the whistle would blow, and they'd start running. It never failed.
Let me be clear: I never thought Ohio State guard Aaron Craft was doing this. The dude has always been objectively tough, buttressing his incredible perimeter defense with a rare breed of hustle.
Still, every once in a while, you'd notice Craft get up from a play and limp on his ankle, almost immediately after which he would simply continue playing. You couldn't help but wonder if Craft used to be one of those 12-year-old kids to whom every would-be-injury instinctively caused a limp, and whether he still had a tick to this effect. Plenty do. But it was never a big enough deal to actually think about, and besides, there was always a game to watch. Play on.
As it turns out, any such suspicions would have been ridiculous. Why? Craft was hurt. He just always played through the pain.
As the Columbus Dispatch's Bob Baptist learned Monday, Craft had surgery on June 18 to repair a bone chip that had been floating in his ankle since his high school career. When Craft would limp during games, it was because "he turned the ankle wrong just a certain way" and "that small piece of bone would get jammed back on his tibia and it would cause excruciating pain," Craft's father, John Craft, told Baptist.
The injury has been around forever, but coaches and doctors couldn't convince Craft to fix it until this summer, when Ohio State coach Thad Matta called John Craft and asked him to persuade his son to take two weeks off to fix the issue. The guard relented, and the subsequent surgery allowed doctors to remove the chip and "three bone spurs that had been caused by the chip rubbing against the tibia." Ouch.
“His attitude was, ‘I want to get better this summer,’?” John Craft told the Dispatch. “That’s admirable, but I told him you’ve got to look at the big picture. You owe it to the team to be ready for them in August,” when the Buckeyes will be able to start preseason drills with coaches earlier than in past years because of Ohio State’s switch to semesters.
Craft was not pleased about having surgery, which put him in a cast and a walking boot, and will cause him to miss about six weeks of offseason workouts when all is said and done. But there is good news:
[...] “The best thing about it is, he’s got two ‘bear’ classes right now, molecular genetics and physics. The one, he is in class for four hours Tuesday through Friday, and he tells me he enjoys it because he can sit in the front of the classroom and put his leg up on a chair and not have to move around.
“He just marches to the beat of a different drummer.”
So, just to sum this up: The upside to Craft finally allowing doctors to remove a painful piece of bone from his ankle is he can more intently focus on his molecular genetics and physics classes. You read that right: Molecular genetics and physics. Is there a tougher kid in college hoops than Craft? A more driven student? A more impressive all-around player?
Whatever beat it is that Craft marches to, I wish the rest of us could hear it. We'd all be at least 60 percent more productive, I guarantee you that. And we'd all limp -- physically and otherwise -- a lot less often.
A couple guys I grew up playing soccer with would react to any contact play with the kind of dramatic tension only my theater-directing mother could appreciate.