A second senior season
|WPI athletics photo|
As Mitch McClune lay in the hospital waiting to undergo surgery to reconstruct the lower part of his left leg, he wrestled with the more painful realization that his days of college football might be over.
All of the hard work, all of the practices, all of the sacrifices over the previous three years, only to have his senior season end in the third quarter of WPI's first game. McClune, playing his first game at safety, broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle simultaneously on a gruesome non-contact injury in the season opener against Merrimack.
That was Sept. 3, 2011. On Oct. 27, 2012, just more than one year removed the career-threatening injury, McClune set a school record with four interceptions, this time as a cornerback.
The only motivation McClune needed to come back was the person on the sidelines watching him during that record-setting game -- his older brother, Matt. Mitch always looked up to Matt, as any younger brother does. But it was a car accident on Oct. 25, 2009, that forever changed Matt's life, and by association, his brother's.
Matt was making the 20-minute daily commute down Route 93 south from Boston to Norwell, Mass., where he served as a personal trainer at a local gym. It was an otherwise nondescript Sunday morning. But in a split second, Matt's truck struck an uncovered pothole left in the road from recent construction. The hole, which Mitch said was a foot or two deep, was enough to cause Matt to lose control of the truck.
It spun twice across the highway before flipping side over side three times. During one of those rotations, Matt was ejected from the truck. The sheer force of the impact with the concrete broke Matt's neck in three places.
Matt was placed in an induced coma for a few weeks and forced to undergo multiple surgeries. When Matt finally emerged from that nightmare, the 27-year-old former fullback at Sacred Heart was left confined to a wheelchair.
"He's paralyzed from the chest down," Mitch said. "But he's doing better now. He's still training [and] working people out, he's just doing it sitting down."
Matt's recovery is nothing short of amazing. He now lives on his own and is getting settled into a house in Braintree, Mass. He still trains at the same gym. But it might be the impact he's had on his younger brother, something that's impossible to quantify or measure, that is most impressive.
Mitch still credits the turning point in both his football career and his brother's professional career to the summer the two spent training together in 2007. Matt had graduated from Sacred Heart and was still trying to carve his professional niche. Mitch was preparing for his senior season at Boston College High School. Matt's hands-on football and workout instruction put Mitch ahead of the curve on the field, while at the same time convincing him to become a personal trainer.
Matt wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty as a fullback. Mitch adopted that same attitude at WPI, where he played offense, defense and...