KDMC presents first Comeback Player award

Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Life changes in a matter of seconds and Brookhaven High School senior Bryce Smith experienced a roller coaster last year. He suffered a knee injury in King’s Daughters Medical Center Football Kickoff game against Lawrence County. 

Smith’s injury was not a simple sprain or tear of an ACL. He was injured on a punt when a Lawrence County player broke through the middle, ran into Bryce, landed and rolled on his leg. His ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus all tore in one play. 

KDMC and Capital Orthopedic Clinic presented the Comeback Player award to Smith Tuesday afternoon in recognition of his progress. KDMC looked at the patients they treated and identified those who have been resilient and dedicated to a high level of playing. Smith checked those boxes. 

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From injury to surgery, it took over a month and then recovery took 10 months for him to be released to play again. He was Capital Ortho’s second patient in Brookhaven. Erin Smith said she cried several times throughout the journey. 

“His sophomore year he got all state and soccer MVP. He had these dreams of going into a service academy and loves the Naval Academy,” Erin said. “Then he got hurt and we didn’t think it would be a possibility anymore. He has a good shot now and will serve our country. It doesn’t matter about the awards but getting him where he wants to be. It is real when teenage boys get hurt. To have Dr. Andy Brien helping it really got us through. Thank you so much.” 

Long road

Last fall, Smith sat on the sidelines each Friday night. He watched the Panthers go 1-10 unable to help his team by punting or kicking field goals. Smith described it as a helpless feeling with two of those games being decided by two points or less. 

He said the pain he felt the night of the injury was trumped by the pain experienced thinking he wasn’t going to play again. His long road to therapy included intensive therapy for six to seven months. The physical challenge of recovery was only a part of what he faced. 

“It was more of a mental challenge. I spent a lot of long nights thinking about my teammates and future,” Smith said. “It inspired me to work harder to get back. It was tough watching the team struggle with me not being able to do anything.” 

In August, he was cleared to play again wearing the No. 80 uniform. He plans to play soccer as soon as football season ends but hopes the Ole Brook team makes a good run in the playoffs. 

Big dreams of service

Smith dreams of going to a service academy, specifically the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He has applied to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and West Point. The dream started two years ago. He visited all three service academies in March. 

“The Naval Academy sent me a letter about two years ago and I read it. I decided this is what I want to do,” Smith said. “My Candidate Visit Weekend I followed a midshipman around for a day. It solidified my desire to go. I was invited to the Summer Seminar. It was a week-long thing where you get a preview of their boot camp and I got to meet a bunch of people I wouldn’t have gotten to meet. I really enjoyed everything and the physical part too.” 

He plans to study engineering or political science and hopes to fly an F-35 or Ospreys for the Navy. 

Smith’s desire to serve is present in Brookhaven. Last year, he used down time from the injury to ring the donation bell for Salvation Army. He serves on two statewide boards. One is the Secretary of State Student Ambassadors and the Mississippi Department of Education Student Council. They each meet about two or three times a year and talk about issues and how the government can help with them. 

“I got involved thanks to my school counselor who sent me several emails. I applied for it and I thought they were good and served a good purpose,” Smith said. “For example, Student Ambassadors take the elite students of the high schools and teach us how to vote and how we can help in the community. I feel like it helps in this community.”