Gaining one yard is not a big deal for most running backs.
For Hinsdale South senior Arian Toney, however, the small feat was enough to put a long-lasting smile on his face during Friday’s game against Morton in Darien.
After rushing for 1,200 yards as a junior, Toney suffered an injury on the second-to-last day of summer training camp and his return this season was in serious jeopardy.
“It was relief,” Toney said of getting two carries in the Hornets’ 28-0 Senior Day victory. “It was a big chip off my shoulder. I put a lot of effort in to get back. After going down before I even got a chance to taste my senior year, it just feels great to even get a carry. I wanted to give 110 percent for my team this year. It bummed me out not to be able to do that, but it is what it is. It’s been hard and a long three, four months, so to be back on the field is a dream. I love it.”
Toney’s diagnosis was a Lisfranc injury, a injury to a ligament in the foot. He had two screws inserted Aug. 8 and settled in for a long rehabilitation process.
As the popular Toney jogged on to the field for the first time this season late in the second quarter, fans immediately started chanting his name and teammates cheered loudly from the sideline.
“He’s such an inspirational guy for our team,” Hinsdale South head coach Mike Barry said. “He’s one of the guys I coach by position, so this season he’s been like an assistant coach to me. I know it’s been hard. With all the hard work and effort that he’s put in, it was special for him to even get back out on the field. He’s still going to have a bright future. I’m just really proud of him for everything he’s done to get back to this point.”
Senior wide receiver Ali Issa may have earned an assist for getting his buddy into the game. He urged the 5-foot-9, 200-pound Toney throughout the first half to ask Barry to give him a shot.
“He has such a big passion for football,” Issa said. “For me, as his best friend, it’s just hard because football is one of the main things in his life. To see him go down was tough. He’s such a tough kid that he fought through a lot of adversity. Right when he got his injury, a lot of people thought he wasn’t coming back this season. He just worked hard, worked hard, worked hard and it was good seeing him do that from a best friend standpoint.”
Toney and Issa became friends while attending Eisenhower Jr. High in Darien.
“He’s the nicest kid,” Issa said. “He always treats people with respect and is just an all-around great kid. He does well in school and puts other people in front of himself, which is always nice to see.”
Toney did wobble off the field after taking a helmet to his ankle following his only carry in the second half, which went for seven yards, but he felt fine after the game.
He’s hoping to contribute in Friday’s must-win game at Downers Grove South. The Hornets (4-4) need the victory to become playoff-eligible and have a shot at the West Suburban Gold championship. Downers South is 5-0 in league play, while Hinsdale South and Willowbrook are both 4-1 heading into the regular-season finale.
“I’m not 100 percent, but hopefully I can get some limited carries,” said Toney, who still hopes to play football in college. “Coach is doing a good job of monitoring me and knowing what I can handle. I’m just taking it one step at a time.”