Student spotlight: From NFL dreams to healing hands

Everyone has goals, everyone has dreams, but not everyone has the opportunity to make them a reality.

For Del Mar College student and kinesiology major Ace Navarijo, this statement became his untimely truth after enduring a Friday night high school football game that forever altered his path.

A path, according to Navarijo, that had been set in stone for him since he could remember.

“My biggest dream growing up, I wanted to play in the NFL,” Navarijo said.

“I felt that that was my only way of providing back to my parents and every penny that they used on me I wanted to give back to them.”

The ultimate dream that turned into Navarijo’s newfound escape from reality, as he put it.

“If something was happening, I went to football practice. If I had an argument with my family, I would leave the house and go do drills by myself. It was my outlet for getting away from everything, and that was my safe spot.”

Safe spot led to fulfillment when Navarijo soon became the starting quarterback for his high school football team, the London Pirates.

“I would say every day I was at the football field. Whether it was someone else or it was just me working on footsteps, different stuff like that.”

As game after game turned from season to season, each win served as fuel for the future, as Navarijo assured himself football would certainly play a major role in it.

“I never had a Plan B,” Navarijo said as he explained the doubts cast upon him growing up.

“They would say, do you have a plan B, anything else you want to pursue and it was always just no, I don’t have anything else.”

Upon entering the roaring football stadium in the first round of playoffs his junior year, Navarijo treated it like any other game. Prepared for what was coming, however not for the split-second brutal slap of reality responsible for relinquishing his passion.

“I was running the ball, and as I was dodging a player who was coming at me, I lifted my leg up and jumped in the air,” Navarijo said.

“As I was in the air another player slammed the crown of his head into my face mask.”

“As soon as the hit happened, the spinning started up and I was like okay it’s just a daze i”m fine. Well when I walked back into the huddle, I was looking at the coach and I couldn’t see him.”

“Didn’t know at the time what it was called but later on I figured out I was diagnosed with vertigo.”

The dazing diagnosis turned his once vibrant dream world into black and white, as Navarijo described the feeling of being taken out.

“It was heartbreaking to me, the fact that I was in the middle of something that brings me so much joy and I had to get removed from it because of an injury,” he said.

Not only was this moment heartbreaking, but it had also served as the first time Navarijo had been taken out of a game his entire football career.

“Honestly what hurt me the most about it was we were losing that game so in my eyes, it was like I physically can’t help my team pursue this win anymore,” he said.

Navarijo spent that whole offseason training harder than he ever could in hopes of preventing his vertigo from returning and despite better judgment, played through the pain into the next season when it did.

“The second game of my senior year, it came back,” Navarijo said.

A harsh reality he admittedly didn’t truly come to terms with the majority of that season.

“There was no doubt in my mind I was still gonna play. When they told me, I immediately was like, ‘Ok, how do we get rid of it?” he said.

“They said the only way to fully get rid of it is that they would have to do surgery on my ears and put blockages to block the crystals, but that I would have a good chance of losing my hearing.”

Ultimately deciding to play on as the diminishing window of opportunity for his future became slim to none, Navarijo finally realized he just couldn’t go on anymore.

“The fourth game I was playing I couldn’t even see the ball coming towards me. So in that moment I just knew it wasn’t about my high school game anymore, it was the realization that I was never gonna play this sport after this season because I physically couldn’t.”

Coming to terms with this new reconciled fate was the first step. The other was understanding where Navarijo’s new future path was headed.

“Ultimately, I decided I wanted to become a physical therapist because I saw it as me having the ability to help someone else become better to go back out there,” said Navarijo.

“Let’s say someone broke their leg and this person can only get it done in six months to get back out there, I wanna make it three.”

Although his injury caused so much ruin, Navarijo unexpectedly found a second passion throughout his road to recovery.

The path of a helping hand, just as the one he had received from his physical therapist.

“The person that helped me with vertigo taught me different maneuvers to fix it. It would subside but later come back; however, because of that, I knew how to get rid of it again to be normal.”

“I just thought that was the coolest thing, like without that person, I wouldn’t have made it back to the sport that I love, I wouldn’t have been able to play in the next game,” said Navarijo.

With the next couple of years of college ahead, Navarijo mentions his unwavering faith with God being his ultimate trusting factor for the unpredictable future.

“At the end of the day, I see it as it’s God’s plan for me. His plan wasn’t cut out for me to play at the next level, but I feel that he is pushing me towards helping people now, and that’s what I’m gonna pursue.”

Click on the link to see the full interview:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *