In our current wide, wide sports world of the National Football League, the World Series of baseball, and the kickoff of new seasons in the NBA and NHL, it’s easy for some great local stories to fall through the cracks.
Time will tell if Dana Fontenot, running back for the Carthage Red Men, will find his way to the NFL, but one thing is for sure, this young man has already exhibited so much perseverance and courage, challenges that will inevitably come his way may seem small in comparison to what he has already accomplished.
Just a few short years ago, playing football was not a priority for Fontenot; simply walking was at the top of that list. Fontenot was a star high school football player in his hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Fontenot was preparing for his junior year at Barbe High School; a Louisiana school honored with the title of having the largest enrollment in Advanced Placement courses in the state.
Fontenot knew he had potential and a possible future in football. He had spent the summer preparing for the upcoming season – working out relentlessly, attending football camps, and meeting with prospective scouts. He knew that the junior year of high school is a ‘make it or break it’ time for most prospective players.
It was just another day at his fall football camp for Fontenot when he got the word from his Offensive Coordinator at Barbe High School – Fontenot had made the Varsity team for the upcoming season. The young man was beaming with pride and confidence.
Later that day, he took the field at camp to run a typical route. One he has run countless times before. But this time, it would be different. This time, his entire life would change.
Fontenot isn’t exactly sure how it happened, he just ran and stopped, and then suddenly – pain.
“I tried to stop. Both my knees gave out. I didn’t hear it, but I felt a huge pop in both my knees.”
“All that hard work, disappeared, in the blink of an eye.”
Fontenot knew the pain he felt when he turned his leg and felt the patellar tendons in both his knees tear away from the bone. The next thing he knew, he was in the hospital, and things were not looking good for this running back.
“I have never seen it before,” Baton Rouge orthopedic surgeon Brett Cascio told KPLC-7 News. “I called many peers from around the county, and they have never seen it before. Fontenot pulled both of his growth plates which then fractured both of his knees.”
Dr. Cascio had performed the surgery before. But never on both knees.
“I was nervous,” Cascio continued. “I wanted to see this kid get back on the field. But I knew that recovery was going to be tough. With one knee, you can use the good one to help walk – this kid couldn’t walk.”
The doctors told Fontenot and his family that it would be highly unlikely that he would be able to walk to the dinner table on Christmas Day, four months after his surgery.
But Fontenot smashed all the doctors’ predictions with his amazing recovery. By the next fall, he was ready to take the field again at Barbe High School.
“I think I have gotten better.” I am just as fast as I was, but now I’m bigger, and I’m more mature. I’m not taking anything for granted, every game I play is my first and last.”
In 2018 he took his football to the next level when he began attending Carthage College and became the only freshman on the Variety team. Fontenot appeared in seven games, and at the end of the season, the rookie was named Freshman Offensive Player of the Season.
In the 2019 season, Fontenot has only become even better, becoming an essential piece of the Red Men offense, leading the team in yards and touchdowns.
And that, is why he is called the “Comeback Kid.”
Q: Why did you choose Carthage as your college?
“I chose to go to school at Carthage because I wanted to be an athletic trainer and it had a good program.”
Q: What’s your major?
“I switched to exercise sport science now. But I want to be a physical therapist”
Q: What do you love most about playing football?
“The relationships you build with your teammates and coaches. All the people you meet along the way, the networking… you really form a bond with all these people”
Q: What is your personal favorite college football team, NFL team, and NFL player?
“Hands down Texas Tech, favorite player is Patrick Mahomes on the (Kansas City) Chiefs.”
Q: Is there any significance behind your number?
“I’ve been wearing number 4 since I was in little league – like 6 years old. It was open and I guess I wanted to go back to where it started.”
Q: What is your favorite part about being on the Carthage football team and attending Carthage College?
“The friends I’ve made… And just venturing out being able to meet new people”
Q: Tell us a bit about your family? Have they been supportive throughout this process?
“My family are wonderful. My Dad has always been my best friend and supported me since the beginning. He believed in me like before I knew I was going to be anything.”
Q: Who is your biggest inspiration or a role model you look up to?
“My Dad is my ultimate inspiration. But in the football world, I would say Berry Sanders.”
Q: Do you have coaches or fellow teammates that help motivate you on or off the field?
“Coach James Cobbs. We have a pretty unique personal relationship. We can have long conversations that I really enjoy.
Q: How do you feel to be back?
“It feels good. Each year after the recovery I feel like I’m getting better and better. You learn not to take even little things for granted. With every play and after every game you just learn to appreciate those moments.”
Q: What are you most looking forward to this season?
“I want have a breakout year where the conference knows my name!”
By Cassidy Gillespie-Dipinto & Jason Hedman
(This story originally appeared in The Smart Reader, October 24th, 2019)