Before the season, Lake Stevens running back Brennan Frost and his mother Michelle were chatting about football.
“I wonder what it would be like to score a touchdown?” Brennan said.
“Are you going to make one?” Michelle asked.
“Yeah, I think so.” answered Brennan.
On opening night, the Vikings hosted the 4A Mariner Marauders of the Wesco South – a playoff team the year prior. The Vikes kickoff to Mariner, and the defense holds, forcing a punt. The Vikes takeover on their own 20.
Coach Tri decides to open the season with a running play.
“Yahoo 37 Stretch. First play. Eighty yard touchdown. He hit that hole harder than anything I’d seen in a long time.” The play was an eye opener for Tri and his staff, and an out-of-body experience for Brennan. Suddenly, the former role player and scout team running back was the center of the Viking offense.
“I still had concerns about Frost at F (running back). My first concern was: can he block? He’s certainly physical enough at six feet, 190 pounds, he’s not a rail. He’s explosive, he’s strong – he’s got that lean muscle. He’s a tough kid. I knew that. I’ve seen him take hits, I’ve seen him bounce up. But learning how to block is a whole different thing. The other issue was fumbling: could he hold onto the ball?”
Frost answered Tri’s doubts and then some. He tirelessly dove into the study of football, sometimes calling the graduated running back Dickinson late into the night, quizzing him on formations, alignments and technique.
Dickinson, who had first predicted Frost’s ability a year earlier, saw an ability in Frost that few had. The ability to disregard fear and hurtle himself at terminal velocity into onrushing tacklers.
“He has no fear. Brennan’s mindset is that if he hits the opponent at full speed, he has a good chance. It’s the hammer and the nail mentality. Frost is the hammer, and the defender gets nailed,” Dickinson said. Injury Strikes
The Frost family lives in a beautiful lake front home. On the night they hosted a team dinner last month, Francisco from Ixtapa had set up a manned burrito bar in the middle of the living room, right next to the grand piano.
Dr. and Mrs. Frost are engaging, funny, and superb hosts. Frost patriarch Whitney, an orthopedic surgeon, is currently involved in the medical treatment of what seems to be half the team, as a rash of knee injuries decimated the Viking squad throughout the season.
Older brother Riley is a professional wakeboarder and a film maker. Younger sister Lexi beat cancer as a toddler, twice. Their last name is Frost, and they look kinda pale, and supremely good-looking. One almost wonders if the Frosts have read the Twilight series, and whether or not they are relatives of the Cullen family in Forks. If so, this town is in for a treat if Brennan turns out for baseball.
For the record, Lexi and Brennan have read Twilight, and the Frosts are not vampires. They are human, and they suffer human frailty, like everyone else. Riley has suffered seven knee surgeries as a result of his wakeboarding career, so it came as little surprise when Brennan injured his knee during the Homecoming game victory over Monroe, a game in which Frost rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns in a little over half of the game.
Frost took a hard hit on his right knee, but thought little of it, despite the screaming, pulsing pain. Running backs get the hell beat out of them every game, and if they started worrying about every little bruise, well, then the coaches would put the next guy in.
But after sleeping on it and then working out his knee at the Homecoming dance the following night, Brennan still didn’t feel right. His knee was extremely stiff, swollen and painful. Finally, he asked his dad to take a look.
“My dad looks at my knee and starts pulling on it, and all of a sudden he is really upset. He looked at me and told me that my ACL was gone,” Frost recalls.
An MRI the following Monday confirmed Dr. Frost’s fears – Brennan had suffered a partially torn anterior crucate ligament in his right knee, an injury that usually requires immediate surgery and six to nine months of rehab, especially for athletes that depend on speed and agility.
If Brennan elected for surgery, there was a chance he could return in time for Track – his first love and sport through which Frost had a legitimate shot at earning a college scholarship, and a chance at an individual state title.
But to Brennan, the MRI results were positive. Partial tear? Well, that means there is still some there. Plus, teammate Garek Stuart, a burly lineman and key cog in the Viking attack was also dealing with a similar injury and attempting to gut it out. And hadn’t Coach Tri elevated Frost to captain just two weeks prior – the first time in Tri’s career that he had appointed a captain midseason?
Frost wasn’t just standing on the sidelines anymore, his teammates were counting on him, and his teammates were suffering through injury too. Surgery would have to wait. Brennan strapped a bulky and awkward brace on his right leg and ran into the breech once more.
Fighting through the pain
But at Oak Harbor, Frost wasn’t himself. He was lacking in speed, and the unwieldy brace was limiting his range of motion. He kept at it though, and carried the ball more times than any game in his career to date, gutting out 125 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings lost, but Frost knew that he could play through the injury.
“It had to have a psychological effect,” Coach Tri said. “Especially for a guy who has learned to depend on his speed for success. He is still faster than most, but he’s maybe at 85 percent. I think this was a challenge for Brennan. He realized that he wasn’t as fast, so he’d just have to be tougher. And he was. In that Snohomish game, and at Oak Harbor, he was breaking tackles he had no business breaking. He was dragging tacklers downfield. He played like a man possessed.”
Frost came back the next week a little more confident. He traded in the POS brace for a custom job, fit to his knee. And he came out senior night and set the town on fire, closing the old stadium out in style.
On a night where a $15 million dollar per picture actress cheered him on from the sidelines, Frost was the true star, leading the Vikes to the playoffs and garnering the most rushing yards in a single game by any Viking in the 40+ years of recorded statistics.
Coach Tri was philosophical when considering the record.
“I had mixed emotions at first – because we’re supposed to be a spread team, a passing team. And Isaac Molstre, who I absolutely loved, set the previous record in a playoff game when we were a run heavy power I team.”
“But the more I thought about it, the more it felt right. Perfect actually. Senior Night. Turning off the lights on our stadium. Have to beat the rival Panthers for a playoff spot. Final drive. Last play. Fighting through an injured knee, braking tackles like a madman. You couldn’t have written a better ending.”
No matter what the gravelly voiced dude from NFL Films tries to tell us, football is not a metaphor for life. It is a young man’s game, played at the high school level for civic and academic pride and character development.
Ten or twenty or thirty years from now, there will still be a Lake Stevens High School football team, playing the same game for the same reasons on Autumn Friday nights. Brennan Frost’s name will likely be wiped clear out of the record books. But somewhere, possibly here in Lake Stevens, Frost can show off a knee scar to his nephews and nieces and tell a good story.
Perhaps he’ll get hungry from retelling the same story for the umpteenth time. Maybe he’ll yell out “Lexi! Get me a sandwich, you owe me your life.” Get a new one Brennan, that one is tired she might reply.
But maybe they’ll both share a smile, knowing that some achievements aren’t recorded in the record book, and some experiences aren’t measured in yards per carry or rushing touchdowns recorded.