The play happened in slow motion to those who watched San Antonio during Cibolo (Texas) Steele’s season opener against San Antonio Madison in 2012.
Four-star safety Erik Huhn reached up somewhat majestically to snag an interception on Steele’s second play on defense; he stopped Madison’s running back at the line of scrimmage on the first play.
On the way down is where everything went wrong.
Huhn, the 16th-ranked safety in the nation, crumpled to the ground untouched and clinched his left leg in agony. He was helped off the field and to a table behind Steele’s bench. Diagnosis: torn ACL, out for the season.
It was a crushing blow to Huhn’s psyche at the time as he struggled to cope with the reality of his situation.
But he knew he couldn’t mope in the world of what-ifs. He had to help his team. He’d just have to do it vocally. He’d need to hit rehab hard. Feed his soul positive thoughts.
Doubters crept in, believing he’ll never be the same. It was inevitable. That’s fine by him. He’s just using that as fuel to work harder and get back to the level he was at when he committed to the Longhorns.
HornsNation caught up with Huhn to discuss the state of that ACL and his thoughts on beginning his career at Texas with a healthier knee on the verge of being 100 percent.
HornsNation: You haven’t played football in a very, very long time. I’m sure you are overly excited to get back to the game, aren’t you?
Erik Huhn: I’m really excited. I haven’t played in a year-and-a-half now, missing what I love to do. I’m really excited to get back out there on a bigger level, a bigger stage and show what I’m made of. Hopefully I can have a good season.
HN: What do you miss most about the game?
Huhn: I just miss being out there with my best friends. A bunch of stuff happens and afterward you talk about it with your friends. Everyone at school is telling you that you did a good job. It’s just the friendships you build with everyone and the love from the fans. I miss everything.
HN: What did you learn about yourself while you were dealing with your injury?
Huhn: You have to go with what happens to you. You have to go with the flow. Of course no one ever wants to get injured, but you have to make the best of it. I just learned how important it was to study film. I definitely learned to be more of a team leader, honestly, and to lead by example. Basically just becoming a better person and understanding that anything can be taken away from you at any time. Everyone says to never take anything for granted. We are 17 and 18 years old. We never think it’s going to happen to us. So never take anything for granted.
HN: Do you feel like you will be hesitant in the way that you move and cut when you start playing football again?
Huhn: I’m good. I do a bunch of drills here and go full speed. I know those first couple of hits are going to be big. Talking to a lot of people who have had this injury, they feel when you first get out there you are unaware of what’s going to happen. You are a little nervous. But after you get into it, it’s just like your old days. I know my doctor did a great job. He’s been telling me everything is rock solid in there. I know I will be ready pretty soon.
HN: Do you feel like you are at 100 percent?
Huhn: I feel like when it’s not sore after I workout, then I’ll be at 100 percent. I can run, cut, do one-on-ones with my brother when he’s in town. It will be sore for a little while. But I have faith that once I get [to Austin] and get back into rehab that it will be nice and normal.
HN: Have you spoken to any of the Texas coaches about what your role could be in your freshman season?
Huhn: I haven’t talked to them too much about specifics. With me, it’s basically been to make sure that I am ready and to get the knee back so they can use me if they need me.
HN: What are your realistic expectations for your freshman season?
Huhn: Well, of course, I would love to play. I’ll do whatever they ask me to. If they need me to play special teams, play safety, I’ll do it. If they ask me to redshirt, I’ll do that, too. I guess what it comes down to, and what they’ve told me, is how my knee is. The whole process has been about my knee, basically.
HN: Is that frustrating to you that everyone seems to only want to talk about your knee?
Huhn: It’s very frustrating. When I was first getting recruited, we talked about the game and how everything was going. Now it is just about my knee. Rehab, rehab, rehab, rehab. It really sucks, honestly. Just not being able to do what you love and having to rehab so much. It never feels right. Small things like cold weather get to it. It’s frustrating.
HN: Does that make you want to push harder to those who are doubting you?
Huhn: Oh, for sure. I definitely feel like I have to come back harder. It’s all on myself. I feel like people forgot about me. So I need to go back and show them what I can do and letting people know who I am and how good I can play.