Seems so sad when two dedicated, committed athletes – guys who go about their business with intensity, purpose and a team-first mentality – suffer season-ending injuries that send them to the sideline and thin the ranks of their team.
Think about it, though. They certainly have. They think about it all the time. And they’ve come to the conclusion that it really isn’t all that sad after all. And “fair” (or “unfair”) isn’t even part of the equation. No, their setbacks are just momentary disappointments, merely tests of strength and will and a golden opportunity for reflection, reassessment and growth.
Ayinde Budd and Charles Geho, both varsity basketball starters, are your quintessential competitors. They give heart and soul to their sport and to their teammates and coaches. They’re passionate about their endeavors and lead as much with grit and hustle as with words.
Now, through no fault of their own, they do their competing as they rehabilitate surgically-repaired limbs and manage, philosophically and positively, their fervent desire to return to action.
Budd is a 6-5, 205-pound senior who, for his efforts on the football field both in 2017 and 2018, earned first-team All-Prep League and All-VISAA honors as a wide receiver. This past fall, when he caught 38 passes for 422 yards and five touchdowns, he was also selected honorable mention All-Metro.
Twice, as a junior and senior, he served as team captain, a responsibility which he considered a sacred trust.
“It was a role I never expected to be in,” he said. “When you’re a captain, you have to think a lot about others rather than just about yourself. Being a captain was a great honor. It was way easier with great people around me and the coaches to help with my growth over the years.”
Though basketball had been the sport Budd always envisioned himself playing in college, his speed, quickness, athleticism and sure hands caught the eye of numerous college football coaches. He’s signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Delaware.
But in the Cougars’ penultimate game – a 36-35 loss at Norfolk Academy that came down to the final play – one moment changed the course of his career.
“It was third and long,” he recalled. “I went out on a deep route, dove after the ball, and stretched out my right arm. All my weight landed on it. Something popped in my shoulder.
“I laid on the ground for about two seconds, got up and played the rest of the game. I knew something wasn’t right. Thought I tweaked it and just needed to rest it. Turned out to be worse.”
Surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff occurred Dec. 20, after he had played, with only one fully functioning arm, in Collegiate’s final football game as well as three basketball games.
He’s doing physical therapy as well as exercises prescribed by his doctor. He hopes to shed his protective sling in a couple of weeks and resume preparing in earnest for the next step of his athletic journey early in the spring.
During his time on North Mooreland Road, Budd has experienced the highs and lows of competition. The Cougars won the 2016 state football title, reached the championship game the following fall, but in 2018 finished 3-5.
Each year he played varsity basketball, the Cougars advanced to the VISAA tournament. Last winter, with him playing a key role, they finished 21-6 and Prep League runner-up.
Now, though, he (and Geho) spend much of their athletic time observing practices and watching games from the end of the bench, always engaged, always supportive.
How has he managed?
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Budd said with a smile. “It’s been hard, but I’ve dealt with it. I always try to encourage everyone. It hurts missing all this, but it’s uncontrollable. You just have to roll with the punches and take things day by day.”
Geho is a 6-3, 210-pound junior, a three-sport (football, basketball, lacrosse) athlete who this past fall earned first-team All-Prep and All-VISAA and honorable mention All-Metro distinction as a defensive lineman (end, mostly, but sometimes tackle).
Versatile, quick and rawhide tough, he was credited with 63 tackles (44 solo, 19 assisted), two forced fumbles, five sacks and eight tackles for loss.
A role player last winter, he had actually decided to step back from basketball to focus on strength and conditioning for the spring season, but a week before practice began in November, he changed his plans.
“I talked to many mentors of mine and found out I’d regret it if I didn’t play,” he explained. “I wanted to be part of something special. I knew that if I hustled for every loose ball and rebound, I could contribute.”
Early on, he worked his way into the starting lineup and, in the Cougars’ 55-53 first-round victory over Douglas Freeman in the Times-Dispatch Invitational Tournament, he grabbed a last-second rebound to thwart the Rebels’ final chance.
Afterwards, he was featured and quoted in a T-D story by sports writer Eric Kolenich. He was gaining confidence and feeling really good.
His season ended early the next evening in the semifinal game against Highland Springs.
“It was a 4-on-3 break,” Geho recalled. “We pushed it to the corner. Mac (Macdonald) shot a 3. I was running down the lane, trying to get the rebound off the side of the rim. I jumped…went straight up in the air…grabbed the ball.
“All of a sudden, my legs are tangled up with another guy’s. I fell straight down on my (left) knee. I knew immediately that something was bad.”
A moment later, the refs stopped play.
“I tried to get up,” Geho continued, “but my knee was going left to right rather than up and down. I told Coach (Del) Harris that it might be a cramp. I tried to think it was the best possible thing that could happen. I tried to put weight on it, but it collapsed.”
Harris and the tournament trainer at Hanover High (where the event was staged) helped him to a chair behind the Cougars’ bench. He tried his best to keep his emotions in check and not allow his face to reveal the pain that radiated from his damaged knee.
“They carried me off, and the game started immediately after that,” Geho said. “There’s no time to stop. It’s crazy how life keeps going on no matter what.”
An MRI the next day revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He underwent surgery Jan. 9 after the swelling had subsided.
In the ensuing weeks, Geho has attacked rehab with predictable heart and dedication and regained 90 percent of his range of motion.
He’s been cleared to walk at home with just his brace. He uses only one crutch to move about in public and hopes to scrap that in the near future.
Geho will miss lacrosse season and eagerly anticipates clearance to compete by the Cougars’ football opener in the fall.
So how has he managed?
“Obviously, God said ‘No’ to what I was doing right now in my life,” he offered. “He wants me to focus on other things.
“Everyone comes up to me and says, ‘I’m so sorry. You weren’t even going to play basketball, and this happens.’ I always tell them, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ll be back stronger than ever. This is just a little bump in the road. I still have one season of each sport left.’
“It’s painful watching the games knowing I could probably help the team by getting rebounds and tough points down low. It’s acknowledging the pain. That will help me when I’m healthy and actually competing.”
In a way, Geho, like Budd, sees his injury not as a misfortune but as a gift.
“All my life,” Geho said, “I’ve relied on sports. When sports are taken away, my life is turned around. But I believe God has a plan for me. In life, obstacles come at you. It’s about how you respond to them.”