ANDOVER — Seven hundred two days.
Pymatuning Valley senior Logan Giddings has waited 702 long days — nearly 17,000 hours — since his last high school football game. The total will eventually climb to 707, but an end is finally in sight.
“I’ve been really anxious,” Giddings said on Friday. “The past two years have been a long wait.”
STRONG FIRST IMPRESSION
Giddings made his varsity debut as a freshman, earning a starting job at the outside linebacker position. He caught the eye of head coach Neal Croston pretty quickly.
“For a freshman, he had good size, he was about 170 pounds, he was raw, he had speed,” Croston said of Giddings. “He wasn’t in the weight room, yet, but he was big for a freshman.
“He didn’t back down. I still remember, first hit, he jumped in against Gaige Willis, who at the time was probably 210 and he was one of our main guys. (Logan) didn’t back down. He played a lot of defense and physically he got after it.”
Giddings continued to start on defense and he earned a few carries out of the backfield.
He admitted to underestimating the size of his opponents at first and Croston remembers a few plays where Giddings lined up in the wrong spot, but the now-senior continued to work and find his footing on the varsity level.
“I don’t know what game it was, but there was a home game where I started lighting up the quarterback and I was like, ‘I like this,’” he said with a laugh. “Lighting people up is the best part.”
PARTY CUT SHORT
After a successful freshman season, Giddings stepped his game up a notch as a sophomore and rattled off a 50-yard-touchdown run in PV’s season opener.
Croston saw Week 5 as his “coming out party.”
“He had an interception in the end zone against St. John,” Croston said. “Gaige just had a long run for a touchdown, we subbed (Logan) in and I still remember the play. We ran 28 option, he caught it, cut it in. It was only 3 yards, but he knew to get up field and score the 2-point conversion. He was making plays on both sides of the ball.”
Giddings’ 2-point conversion turned out to be the difference in a 36-34 victory, but the then-sophomore never made it to the end.
After fielding a kick, Giddings returned the ball and planted his foot near the 50-yard line at Spire Institute and collapsed.
“He had that one cut, got hurt and we were just praying that it was a little bit of swelling, bruise or something, and then he was gone for what seems like forever,” Croston said.
Giddings went to the doctor and learned that he tore the ACL in his right knee. He immediately knew his sophomore season was over, but remained optimistic.
“My mom works at the hospital, so they have a break room and I went in there, I sat there, I called coach and I told him,” Giddings said. “I sat there afterwards and I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe this isn’t that bad. I’ll just have the surgery, I’m only a sophomore, I’ll be back for my junior year. It’s not a big deal.’"
THIS DOESN’T SOUND RIGHT
Giddings used crutches for roughly two weeks after surgery. He then started physical therapy.
“Within a week or two (of physical therapy), I was like, ‘Man, this doesn’t sound right,’” Giddings said. “My knee sounded like a squeaky floorboard. It was like ‘squeak, squeak’ every time I walked. … My knee would tug and stuff, so I went back and he goes, ‘It could be scar tissue buildup,’ and then I’m like ‘No. I think there’s something wrong.’
“So, I got an MRI and he’s like ‘Yeah, there’s something wrong.’”
A clip that kept Giddings’ ACL intact came undone and a second surgery was required.
“He did a revision surgery a couple of months later and he drilled the holes too big,” Giddings said. “They’re supposed to be 8 to 10 millimeters wide and he drilled them 15 to 18, so the ACL just shredded in there.”
BACK TO START
Giddings decided to get a second opinion on his knee and visited Doctor James Voos from UH Hospital, who confirmed what Giddings already believed.
“He saw that and he’s like, ‘Man, what did this doctor do to you?’” Giddings said. “So, then I had to have a third surgery.”
First, the doctor removed GIddings’ ACL and “cleaned up the mess,” the PV senior said. Then, the previously-drilled holes in Giddings knee had to be filled in with bone-grafting.
“I had to wait five months for that to heal so he could drill through it again,” Giddings said. “So then he drilled through it the right size and he took my patella tendon and made it my ACL.”
In all, Giddings had four surgeries on his knee and spent four or five months, at least, in rehab.
STILL A LAKER
Through the surgeries and rehab, Giddings still stood by his team. He remained on the sidelines on Friday nights and helped any way he could in practice.
It wasn’t easy, though.
“(Junior year) was really tough,” he said. “You have everyone asking questions — ‘Why aren’t you playing this year?’ — and then I’d have to explain it to every single person every time I got asked.
“I think what hurt me the most was like, when I was a freshman, the sophomores that I was playing with — which last year they would have been seniors — I really wanted to have a last season with them. And, I had to sit back and just watch and not be able to play with them or help them out or anything.”
To compensate, Giddings lived in the weight room.
“Lifting really took my mind off everything,” he said. “If I was mad, I’d just lift. If I wasn’t feeling good, I’d just lift. It was like therapy. So, I pushed to get better at that aspect, because I knew if I could get stronger, it would help me on the field and help my team overall. … I was really motivated to get back into sports.”
Giddings’ work ethic in the weight room became contagious.
“They saw this guy in the weight room, saw his numbers up on the board, see him before practice lifting, after practice lifting, and I think it even affected some of the middle school kids,” Croston said. “Especially my two sons. They come in, they’re in seventh and sixth grade, they see (Logan) and they’re following him around. They’re trying to do what he does. He has a black book that’s like a diary of lifting, my one son had a black book for a while, trying to write stuff that he was doing.”
Giddings finally got clearance to practice less than two weeks ago and, after so much time off, the little things that most players tend to take for granted excited him.
“When I put the shoulder pads on, I was like ‘Man, it’s been a long time since I put these on,’” he said with a smile. “And then all the guys were messing with me like ‘do you even remember how to play football?’ … But I was pretty happy, because I haven’t been out there in forever.
“It really brought back a lot of memories, because I played since (I was five or six years old). It was almost like a flashback, you remember all the years and everything that’s happened.”
Croston called seeing Giddings back on the field “surreal.”
“We’ve been having good vibes with the team in the summer in camp and then he comes out and he just brought another energy in,” Croston said. “He’s been knocking heads with Kenny (Crouch) and (Dilllen) Knowles, so it’s been good for our team.”
Giddings returned with so much energy that Croston has had to hold him back — or at least he has tried to.
“We had to take days off in between because I was so afraid of him reinjuring (his knee),” Croston said. “Sometimes we’ll be doing a drill earlier in the year and he’s off to the side flipping a tire 100 yards. Not 20 yards. One hundred yards — back and forth.
“And guys see that. It’s 85 degrees out and he’s over there with no one motivating him, doing it on his own. So, he brings that energy, he brings that work ethic and it’s just great to have him back.”
Giddings will play defensive end this season.
He is also a running back, but said that he will ease into the offensive end and hopefully tack on more responsibilities as the season progresses.
One of only two seniors on the team, he also wants to be a voice for the young Lakers.
“I feel like one of my responsibilities is having the younger guys put their trust in me and respect me and look up to me, because I don’t want to be that guy that they can’t rely on as a senior,” he said. “So, I’d rather have them be able to look up to me. And I think it’s my job to prove that they can rely on me … on and off the field.”
After the football season, Giddings plans to play basketball and baseball for the Lakers — two other sports he played as a freshman but has not been able to since.
He plans on going to college and wants to get into physical therapy, he said. He also is hoping to play football at the next level, but he understands the obstacles he’ll have to overcome after missing the last season and a half.
As for his final football season at PV, Giddings wants to be the first Lakers team to have a .500 record since 2014. He also wants to prove that his knee surgeries are a thing of the past.
“I just want to get the job done,” he said. “Prove a point to everyone that I’m still capable of getting the job done.”
He will have his first chance to do so when PV hosts Mineral Ridge on Friday.