Brock Vandagriff: How he endured a serious knee injury to become a state champion
Brock Vandagriff won a long-cherished Georgia High School Association Class A state football title with his team inside Central Parc Stadium on Monday night. He played the part of the 5-star doing his thing throwing for 274 yards and two scores and running for 80 more another TD.
What’s he going to do next? Not Disneyland after securing the first state title in school history.
Try hunkering down with the UGA team doctors tomorrow. That’s necessary to try to assess and treat the torn posterior cruciate ligament on the inside of his knee. That injury took place back in the fourth week of the season.
When those who had known him for years saw him play this year, they wondered why he was off. Something just looked different. When they learned about the knee, it all made sense.
“He tore that PCL in week four halfway through the game,” Greg Vandagriff said. “He comes off and said ‘Man, my knee is not feeling right’ and heck he played through a game with a broken ankle or you know a broken leg in a game the year before.”
He fought through that initial injury for a time.
“So we went and had it checked like 10 days later,” Greg Vandagriff said. “We probably even played another game before we had it checked. He was like it just doesn’t feel right.”
His doctors told him he had a torn PCL.
“They were like you can play with it,” Greg Vandagriff said. “But you’re going to need surgery. So we’ve not run him in a lot of times we needed to run him. We’ve not run him at all this year after that.”
Vandagriff has made his point clear on that matter many times. He knows there is a bright future ahead of his son on Saturdays and even Sundays. So much that he has publicly scoffed at the notion he’d ever run him 20-plus times in order to win a high school game.
“We just weren’t going to do that with Brock,” Greg Vandagriff said again on Monday night. “We were never going to do that.”
The future Georgia QB finished with 104 carries this season. He had 40 of those prior to that diagnosis. He had 64 afterward in the nine games that finished out the season, including 30 in the last three weeks of the playoffs.
But those totals even included sacks. Not just the very few designed runs or scrambles. He basically never ran at all unless he was inside the 10-yard line with paydirt up ahead.
He scrambled away several times in last week’s 50-3 win at Wesleyan to evade pressure. It was because he had to. Not in trying to create explosive plays.
“Now this one was let’s now go get surgery and go get surgery because it is now over,” Greg Vandagriff said.
There’s the part in all of this that makes the 12 carries for 80 yards a torn PCL in the state championship game seem like a good trait for the future of the Georgia football program. It might take a SCUD missile to knock this Vanagriff fella out of a big game in seasons to come.
He covered 33 of those rushing yards on a 4th-and-2 late in the first half with his team only up 13-7 from his own 38. That play led to a 17-yard dart in the left corner of the end zone for a 20-7 lead in the most pivotal series of the game.
“When it mattered I put the ball in his hands because he was the best player on the field,” Greg Vandagriff said.
Vandagriff converted those plays with that torn PCL.
“It was a called run for him on that quarterback sweep,” he said. “We’re blocking you. You stop it. We’re putting it in our best guy’s hands. Come get him if you can.”
It’s a footnote to a high school career that will certainly add some credence to the fact that the 5-star Georgia signee comes out of Class A football. There’s a stigma in the minds of some fans when it comes to that no matter who many very talented players have excelled in Athens coming out of the Class A or AA ranks over the years.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Vandagriff finished with over 100 career touchdown passes and more than 10,000 career passing yards in three seasons. And he won a state championship. He has now also done so across his senior year going 9-0 with a torn PCL.
“We just looked at it like we didn’t think it was going to get any worse,” his father said. “But I’m not still going to run him unless it was to win the ballgame.”
Brock Vandagriff: What happens now with his torn PCL?
Vandagriff’s plight has been known here for a couple of months. Some media outlets saw fit to visit practices and make mention of it. That’s their prerogative.
But the feeling here was not to publish what could resemble a bullseye on a championship-caliber QB’s knee in the midst of a state title run. Especially since he was still playing and performing at a 5-star level with a knee brace Barry Bonds would’ve approved of.
That’s the risk of the information business these days. The condition of his knee was actually shared live over the air during the statewide broadcast of the Class A state championship game on Georgia Public Broadcasting television.
The fact they did so during the course of his final game, win or lose, didn’t matter anymore. What matters now was watching him endure not trying to run the ball over the last few weeks of the playoffs.
When he had to take off and gallop a few times against opponents like 5-time defending state champion Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy and Wesleyan, he mentioned afterward how he wasn’t used to running.
Or how out of shape he was after those long carries and then having to go back into the pocket and operate from the pocket as a precision passer.
Vandagriff still managed to throw for 4,181 yards, 46 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a torn PCL this season. He did so while completing over 70 percent of his passes and running for 507 yards and 16 scores in a 2020 season that will likely go down as the longest in GHSA history.
“We knew two things going into this game,” his father said. “We knew he had to run the ball for us to win and we had to hit the tight end.”
Vandagriff ran the ball. He certainly hit his tight end, Jake Pittman, for a 45-yard scoring strike and on another 20-yard gain on 3rd-and-12 on a vital late drive up 27-20 with 9:45 left to go.
3rd-and-12. 4th quarter. This is what Brock Vandagriff does in a clutch spot. 20 yards. First down. pic.twitter.com/JYHsLZadsY
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 28, 2020
That gain went for 20 yards and a first down en route to a 34-20 lead.
He’ll have his knee checked out for sure tomorrow in Athens under the care of the UGA team doctors.
“That’s what we think it is,” Greg Vandagriff said. “A torn PCL. We’ll have an MRI in the morning. We’ll be at Georgia at eight o’clock in the morning.”
Then surgery will likely take place. That’s been the ready-made plan for Team Vandagriff and the Bulldogs the moment his season was over.
The recovery timeline could take up to five-to-seven months before he is a full-go with contact. It will likely be sooner given Vandagriff’s stout frame and remarkable resiliency. But 5-star quarterbacks and their 5-star knees at UGA have been getting the ultra-careful treatment of late.
“He’ll be back for spring,” Greg Vandagriff estimated. “He’ll be out of contact, but they don’t hit them anyway. We’ll see about the spring game. I don’t know about that. We’ll know more about him, his knee and his prognosis after tomorrow.”
What mattered for Prince Avenue in the state title game
Vandagriff had steeled himself for this moment. He’d purposely not finished sharing the final chapter of the book “The Energy Bus” with his team. They’d covered the rest of that book all season but stopped there.
That’s why he teared up on Monday on the ride leading to Central Parc Stadium.
“I am videoing the police officers stopping traffic for our bus to go through with tears in my eyes,” Greg Vandagriff said. “Just that people would give up their time to allow us to roll through. How nice it is. How awesome it is. To go play for a state championship. We hadn’t won a thing. We were just going to go play for it. We hadn’t won it or anything.”
It was an emotional day for the Vandagriffs. Both father and son had admitted recently this chapter of his coaching career and Brock’s playing career would not seem right without winning it all in the last game of this season.
“I was just trying to deal with the emotions on the bus ride,” Greg Vandagriff said. “I normally get on the bus ride and go to sleep.”
TD! @LoganJohnson04 17 pass from Brock Vandagriff. Prince Avenue Christian 20, Trinity Christian 7. Vandagriff extended the scoring drive with a QB keeper he sprung for 33 yards on a 4th-and-2 from his own 38 with 1:50 left in the half. pic.twitter.com/Xk3YToQHF9
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 28, 2020
That last chapter of that book was to “enjoy the ride” according to Greg Vandagriff.
“I was telling the guys to enjoy the ride on Monday of last week and I was telling myself to enjoy the ride,” he said. “I was going through all the emotions. You want to enjoy it, but man this just means so much. You’re thinking to yourself ‘Don’t choke’ and ‘Don’t choke calling plays’ and ‘Don’t choke not seeing what they are giving you’ and ‘Don’t choke after we’ve produced all year making good calls’ and that’s real tough to do with all of this here.”
TD! Brock Vandagriff 3 run. Prince Avenue Christian 34, Trinity Christian 21. 7:45 4Q. Vandagriff now has 74 🏎 yards and 274 🛫 yards tonight. 2 total TDs. pic.twitter.com/KAuPJ0O5Go
— Jeff Sentell (@jeffsentell) December 28, 2020
The Wolverines won going away on Monday night.
“This is what you play for and what you prepare for and this is everybody’s goal,” his mother Kelly Vandagriff said after Monday’s game. “This has been Brock and Greg’s goal for a long time. Just knowing for four years that Brock has badly wanted this and this has been his ultimate goal. I think it is the best way and the perfect way to end it.”
The father and son who played the game would add a little more to Mom’s wisdom there.
“We didn’t have any other idea for an ending to this thing besides this one,” Greg Vandagriff said. “We didn’t have another plan but to go out on top. We were going to deal with whatever else happens. But this was the plan. This was always the plan. There was no talking about anything else.”
Was there a big hug? Was there a fist bump? Or a back slap between the two and another tearful word?
Vandagriff said his eyes got misty while recording that police escort. What was that “we did it” emotion here? What was that moment after the ultimate prize for a dual father-son and player-coach relationship?
“We just enjoy it,” Greg Vandagriff said. “We just enjoy it. You just ride off into the sunset and enjoy it. It is like I told him in the locker room I said ‘You know what? No matter now. No matter now what the rest of your life no matter what they all say about you now. You are always a champion. You are always going to be a champion and they can never take it away from you’ and that’s how we left it.”