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DeBlois returns to the lacrosse field after horrific accident

Du defenseman Brendan DeBlois has returned to competitive lacrosse.

The life of a lacrosse defenseman is a rugged existence.

Throughout any match, punishing attackers barrel in at full speed and rock-hard projectiles constantly whiz past your head. Add to the mix a continuous assault of opposing sticks slapping at your arms, wrists, and hands, and it is clear the game is not for the faint of heart.

No doubt, Brendan DeBlois is well-suited to the rigors of the job. A sturdy 5-foot-11, 190-pound redshirt junior, DeBlois asserted his presence immediately at the University of Denver as an all-conference defenseman as a freshman. DeBlois is quite accustomed to the chaos and punishment that comes with his trade.

Yet there is no way DeBlois could have been prepared for the devastating blindside hit he received on Feb. 15, 2010 — a shot that would threaten DeBlois’ career and forever alter the quality of his life.

While riding his bicycle to an 8 a.m. class, DeBlois was crossing the pedestrian walkway on Evans Avenue when disaster struck.

The light had changed for pedestrians to cross. Unfortunately for DeBlois, the driver of an oncoming car failed to notice the traffic light had turned red.

In one horrifying moment, DeBlois’ career — and even his life — was in jeopardy.

“I hit the walk button and waited, and then the car stopped on my left and I began to cross, and as I hit the median I hear the honk and I look to my right, and there’s a car three feet away,” DeBlois recalls. “The next thing I know I was in the air. I couldn’t believe it. I sort of jumped up, and my shoulder and backpack went through the windshield before I went over the top. I did a couple flips in the air and ended about 15 feet down the road. I got up right away because I thought another car might be coming, but obviously there weren’t because it was a red light. I just laid back down and a couple people helped me out.”

While DeBlois’ injuries were not life-threatening, they were quite extensive. The Pioneers were scheduled to leave the next day for their season opener at Syracuse, and as he assessed the origin of various flares of pain, DeBlois realized the trip simply was not going to happen for him.

It wasn’t long before it became clear that DeBlois would be sidelined much longer. The worst of the injuries included three that, individually, would keep any athlete out for an extended period — a fractured right ankle, a fractured left wrist and a separated right shoulder.

As his teammates departed for Syracuse, DeBlois was left alone to deal with the pain and fret about his future. Adding extra agony to the situation was that DeBlois, a native of Narragansett, R.I., had been looking forward to a bit of a family reunion at Syracuse. His mother had recently gotten remarried to a Syracuse alumnus and the family was planning to bring a strong DU cheering section to upstate New York.

“Pretty much they gave me a sack of bread and I was left alone that weekend,” DeBlois says. “I was all bruised up. Not only the injuries, but there was severe body pain. It hurt to move at all. I just ate bread and painkillers and tried to hop to the shower. Pretty much that’s when I knew, with that kind of pain, that it was going to be a while.”

DeBlois soon was ruled out for the season (he received a medical redshirt) and underwent two surgeries — one to insert a pin in his fractured wrist and another to insert a plate and four screws in his ankle.

DeBlois embarked on the long, grueling rehabilitation process and still was unable to participate in the Pioneers’ fall workouts — mostly because of lingering pain in his surgically repaired ankle. Further testing revealed that DeBlois was suffering from bone chips in his ankle, which were removed during another surgical procedure over the holidays.

By his own account, DeBlois’ comeback remains a work in progress. He is the first to concede his ankle is not yet 100 percent, and to protect his health, head coach Bill Tierney regularly gives DeBlois days off from practice. DeBlois may never fully regain the speed he boasted before he pedaled into that crosswalk.

Yet all those struggles pale in comparison to the excitement both DeBlois and the rest of the program has enjoyed seeing him back on the field. DeBlois once again has asserted himself as one of the anchors of DU’s defense during a 8-2 start that also has included a 3-0 mark in league play and a victory over defending national champion Duke on April 9.

“From the description of the accident, he could have been dead,” Tierney says. “I think everybody underestimated what he went through because he is such a tough kid. All that said, we are much better with him than we are without him. He brings a presence to us. He’s strong. He’s tough. Even with a hobbled-up ankle, he is still faster than most guys.”

DeBlois’ return to the field this spring has been a joyous personal achievement and has left the veteran defenseman thankful for every moment he gets in a crimson and gold uniform. With roughly a season and a half remaining in his DU career, expect DeBlois to give as much to the Pioneers program as his ankle will allow.

“I definitely realize how quickly things can change. And that is just in life — you never know,” DeBlois says. “Anything can happen to anyone at any time. To take anything for granted is foolish. I’m just trying to make the most of my time left and do everything I can to be on the field.”

The Pioneers host Ohio State at 3 p.m. April 16 in the eighth annual Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Showdown at INVESCO Field at Mile High. For tickets, visit or the Denver Outlaws box office the day of the match.

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