After missing the 2014 soccer season with a knee injury, Chickasha football kicker Sterling Claphan had come back to give the Fightin' Chicks a boost in two-straight autumns.
Then, midway through the 2015 season in a home game against Cache, tragedy struck when he suffered another ACL tear. It limited his action with Chickasha for the rest of the season and threatened to derail future plans.
He kept kicking where he could, and now, a few months later, a recovering Claphan has kept his dream alive by signing to kick for Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
"It just speaks to his character and the commitment he has to do what he loves to do," Head Coach Jerry Don Bray said. "Every night in the summer, he'd go up and kick on his own. He was kicking for two-and-a-half hours every day at practice. He wants to be a good kicker, and he's well on his way."
Claphan signed a national letter of intent to play for the Aggies on Wednesday at a ceremony at the CHS Activity Center. Claphan said he was thrilled to be heading off to college after battling the injury bug.
"Going through injuries, it was hard," Claphan said. "Playing with a torn ACL for the rest of the year was rough. Kicking the ball was like dang-near cutting your leg off. It was rough.
"But fighting' through injuries and physical therapy just made me stronger. It made me want to come back even better than what I was."
Bray said Claphan is the type of kicker that doesn't "come around every year" in a high school program and that he expects him to play straight away.
"That is the plan, to start out playing down there," Claphan said. "It feels great for the coach to want me to come straight in kicking. It's a big step up in life."
Claphan said he felt like he fit right in at Oklahoma Panhandle on a recruiting visit. The players, he said, grew up hunting and fishing like he did.
"They made me feel at home on the recruiting trip," Claphan said. "I fit right in, and down there the coach treats everyone like family."
He plans to study criminal justice and environmental science and someday become a game warden or work for the highway patrol.