A hip problem that just wouldn't go away forced Troy Reese to see almost 20 doctors before his senior year at Corona del Mar High. None of the doctors gave him a timeframe as to when he could return to playing football again.
At one point, Reese figured his career was over. No more running routes. No more catching balls.
As for the reasons why the wide receiver got hurt, Reese said it was because he didn't stretch before working out one day eight months ago. Reese, a 6-foot-4, 190-pounder, was running late to an offseason practice.
After he ran onto the field, he soon couldn't run at all. He limped off with an injured hip, without anyone hitting him. Reese was out just like that, doing nothing for five weeks. He spent the spring and summer practices on the sideline.
Doubt set in whether Reese could make it back in time for the fall season.
"It wasn't healing," Reese said of the hip flexor injury.
While sitting out, hoping to recover, Reese thought about how it all happened, him injuring his hip. He didn't need to go to the practice to catch balls from some quality quarterbacks from Orange County that day.
On his way to the workout, Reese called another quarterback, Cayman Carter, the expected starter at CdM.
"I [thought] that I should just maybe throw with him instead," Reese said. "Instead of doing that, I went to the practice. If I would've [thrown with Carter], I might not have gotten hurt. Definitely some regret there."
It took some time for Reese to get over his injury. After seeing doctor after doctor, one gave him the news he longed for, when he could make his comeback attempt.
In August, it had been nearly six months since Reese's setback. The doctor gave Reese the OK to return to the field. The season was three weeks away and now Reese needed to get more than in shape.
"It might've been in my head [that I was still hurt] because I just felt something constantly there," Reese said. "It gave me the courage to go out there and fight through it."
Five games into the season, Reese felt like the Reese of last year, when he helped CdM win the CIF Southern Section Southern Division title. A healthy Reese has the Sea Kings believing it can defend that section crown.
The receiver is almost impossible to slow down because of his size. There aren't many defensive backs that can get to balls Reese does in the air.
"We've told him all along, 'If you just go out there and compete as hard as you can [no one can stop you],'" said Scott Meyer, CdM's coach.
Reese was unstoppable last week in the Sea Kings' 33-16 win against Woodbridge that clinched the outright Pacific Coast League title.
Carter and Reese played catch throughout the game. Carter threw high passes and Reese out-jumped cornerbacks to get them, one for a 34-yard touchdown.
One time, Carter appeared to overthrow Reese down the sideline, until Reese's outstretched hands hauled in the pass for a 31-yard touchdown. That play gave Reese a seven-catch, 188-yard and two-touchdown performance, a career night in terms of receptions and yards.
Through nine games of the season, Reese's numbers (36 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns) are almost identical to the stats Reese produced in 14 games last season. Reese expects another 14-game season, but before the Sea Kings make a run at back-to-back section titles, they are trying to become the first CdM team to win every league game.
The Sea Kings (7-2, 4-0 in league), ranked No. 1 in the Southern Division, close out league play against rival Beckman (3-6, 2-2) at Tustin High on Friday at 7 p.m.