Walking the walk: Brad Schneider overcomes obstacles
Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 16:09
Knights golfer Brad Schneider stepped onto the collegiate green for the first time four years ago extremely lucky.
He had the same feeling as any other student athlete would have when competing in his or her sport for the first time in college, except his was stronger.
It was the best feeling ever.
Schneider walked up to the tee sporting a leg brace on his left leg. His biggest stroke of luck was just that: He walked up to the tee, and he had a brace on his left leg.
Five years ago, Schneider had a plan.
A decorated high school and amateur golfer, he expected to come to UCF and be an instant impact on the golf team.
A nightmare before Thanksgiving during his senior year of high school, however, ruined everything.
Just a few weeks after he had signed a National Letter of Intent to play for UCF, Schneider played a pick-up football game with some friends. Suddenly, he was pulled back from behind. His right leg got caught behind him, and he suffered a femur fracture.
Instead of spending Thanksgiving at home, he spent the holiday in surgery.
"Right when it happened, right when that day before Thanksgiving when I knew something bad had happened, everything was rushing through my mind, because I think I had signed with UCF two or three weeks before," Schneider said. "I was looking forward to playing for them and everything, and then I do that and knew I was going to be out for awhile but I didn't really know what was to come."
What did come was another problem. A complication stemmed from his surgery – in his other leg.
Schneider thinks that the length of the surgery on his right leg spurred the complication in his left leg, which suffered compartment syndrome, a buildup of air and fluids in muscle compartments.
"When they were doing the tests, they do a little pressure test with a needle or something, and they said that if they had come in an hour and a half later, they probably would have had to amputate my left leg from the knee down," Schneider said.
He went on to have five more surgeries on his left leg in a span of eight days for a total of nine surgeries. He still had both of his legs, but he didn't golf for more than a year.
"It was crazy because it was just like a freak accident when it happened but the left leg was what took me out for the whole year, pretty much," he said.
When Schneider talked to then-head coach Nick Clinard three weeks after the fiasco, it was decided that the golfer would redshirt his freshman year and focus on recovering.
"I was going to come back," Schneider said. "Everyone was telling me that I was going to come back, and he [Clinard] was just another support system that, you know, ‘As long as you come in and try your hardest, that's all we want and that's all we wanted to see.'"
Despite being surrounded by optimism, the golfer wasn't so sure. Schneider had doubts from the day his injury until months later when he was just getting back on his feet, and the bone in his right leg was still growing.
"I was just learning how to walk again," Schneider said. "I was like, how was I going to swing a golf club?"
Schneider worked hard to recover. He went through a handful of braces before he found one that was comfortable. When he got to UCF, he saw a physical therapist several times a week for a year to regain his strength.
Finally, Schneider's collegiate golf dreams weren't so far-fetched. Finally, he believed in everybody's optimism.
"[I] knew after I came to school and started rehabbing and everything, getting through that process where I started hitting balls again, I felt like I was going to come back, and I was telling [Clinard] that, finally, after so many people telling me that," Schneider said.
Current head coach Bryce Wallor met Schneider when he was still a coach at University of Tennessee and views the senior as a role model for the Knights and for other teams.
"He hit the absolute rock-bottom low that he could physically and took his time to build himself back up, and that's just not easy to do," Wallor said.
When Schneider finally stepped onto the green as a redshirt freshman in 2008, it was "the best feeling ever."
Schneider has quickly reached the successes that he had long since hoped for. He's helped UCF claim three-straight Conference USA titles and played in the NCAA Championship as a freshman after he placed second and UCF placed first in the regional.
When Wallor, who came to UCF in 2009, first met Schneider and saw his leg brace, he asked Clinard what had happened. Clinard explained the scenario.
"Not being his coach, I just kind of looked at it and said wow, that's a pretty tough guy right there," Wallor said.