MANTI For a few days in his life that he'd rather forget, Dave Hugentobler resembled a Bobblehead.
Shortly after his sophomore year ended, Hugentobler, now a senior guard for Manti's basketball team, violently crashed his dirt bike while performing a jump at a track in Kaneville. He said he had too much adrenaline going, went too fast on a jump, overshot it and landed on a hill a few feet past his expected landing.
The jarring landing drove his helmet into his handlebars and broke his jaw in three different places. He broke both his right tibia and fibula. He shattered his sinuses.
Hugentobler had to wait for hours to get treatment and was in agonizing pain until medical personnel arrived to give him morphine. He was out of it until he got out of surgery to repair his face and his leg. When he awakened, he saw his bruised and battered face that had swelled to an enormous size.
"It was kind of funny my face was like a balloon," he said. "It was big. It was weird. It was difficult."
Reality set in for Hugentobler following those first few days after his accident. His recovery was going to be a long, drawn-out and painful process. He would have to miss his junior year of football, and no one was sure if he would ever regain the mobility and athleticism he had previously displayed.
When Hugentobler was a sophomore, his play at guard was silky-smooth and he led his team in scoring with 13.2 points per game. The future, once bright for both him and his Templar teammates, was now murky.
But Hugentobler has shown that no one should have ever doubted his ability to bounce back.
Hugentobler was again one of Manti's top scorers as a junior, averaging 12.2 points per game. But he didn't have the same amount of explosion and he was constantly in pain.
There were lingering complications from his accident. His foot wasn't 100 percent, and he would later find out why. He overcompensated for his weakened right leg and would usually jump with his left leg and land on it. That gave him some problems with his left hip.
"It was pretty tough," Hugentobler said. "I didn't have as much mobility. I wasn't as quick. I wasn't able to practice as much. As the year went on, my body just kind of started ignoring the pain. It got a little easier. It (his right foot) got really sore after games. I would just hobble onto the bus or to home and put some ice on it and take some Ibuprofen."
Hugentobler learned after the season that his right fibula hadn't healed, and that three of the screws that enabled a metal plate to keep the bone in place had broken. Hugentobler went and saw his doctor after the season ended thinking he was getting a routine checkup. He left with another heavy cast on his foot and another arduous rehabilitation process ahead of him.
No one knew that Hugentobler played his entire junior season with a broken foot. Mark Hugentobler, Dave's dad and coach at Manti, jokingly wanted to make that clear so that DCFS doesn't come after him.
"He obviously has a pretty high pain threshold," Mark Hugentobler said. "I knew he was slow, I knew he was hampered, but I had no idea (it was still broken)."
Hugentobler wasn't exactly thrilled with having to wear another cast on his foot, but learning of the break provided him with some answers, such as why he was slower and why he was in constant pain during his junior season. It was simply going to take some patience to return to his previous form.
He was OK with that.
"He's had an amazing ability to get up and smile," Mark Hugentobler said. "He gets up in the morning and he's still smiling. His mom and I are fretting over it and he says, 'It will be OK. It will heal.'"
And it did.
Hugentobler worked hard to get in shape after his leg finally healed. He played football again this past fall and started for the Templars at fullback and linebacker. He scored 20 touchdowns, 18 rushing and two receiving.
Hugentobler has taken on a different role on this year's basketball team at Manti. Other players have emerged and have taken on the scoring load. Junior Griffin Aste and senior Tylan Jackson are each averaging a little more than 15 points per game. Point guard Callen Jones has done a fine job of running the team at point guard.
"It's been kind of an adjustment for me, getting used to having so many good players out on the court to play with," Hugentobler said. "We can score from anywhere. Anyone on the court has the ability to shoot and take it to the basket and dish. It's been really nice. It's been fun."
That's not a statement that a lot of people would make about giving up being the top scoring option on their team. But Hugentobler's accident changed him, and not just physically. It also gave him a different perspective on life.
"Before, sports probably meant more to me," Hugentobler said. "Now, people mean more to me. Not just my family and friends, but also the people I play against knowing they're people too and they go through things in life. I'm loving people more than I love the game and just going out and having fun playing basketball and not taking it too seriously."
Hugentobler had one last setback in his senior season. He broke one of his toes before basketball season started and missed the team's first two games.
But it's been clear sailing since then and he's helped the Templars put together a solid season. Manti is ranked No. 2 in Class 2A with a 12-5 record. Hugentobler is averaging 9.93 points per game.
"I think it's amazing how he's come back from all the injuries he's had," Jackson said. "He just came back strong. He's a great asset to our team."3 comments on this story
Hugentobler's passion is what makes him such a valuable asset to the Templars."He just has a huge passion for life," Mark Hugentobler said. "His heart is twice as big as his chest. He's a special kid."