Player Profile: Fred Flenorl
Fred Flenorl, Jr. may have gotten knocked down on the field on Oct. 6, 2012, but he is learning how to get back up off the field since that date.
Growing up in Memphis, he was involved in football from a young age. He played quarterback, starting in middle school, and then continued his career at Whitehaven High School.
Coming to UTM was an easy decision for him. He visited the campus and said it "felt like home." He verbally committed to play football here after seeing the campus and meeting with Head Coach Jason Simpson.
"It was not too far from home, and everyone was nice on campus," Flenorl said.
Moving in his first day here as a freshman in 2010, his father, Fred Sr. was helping him move his belongings into his room. His dad took notice of a pretty girl and asked her, "Have you met my son Fred yet? You should come to the barbecue and meet him."
Jennifer Jones came to the barbecue and the rest, as they say, is history. Flenorl said, "We talked and watched TV for two or three hours," when he talks of that first meeting.
Two years later, they decided to make it official. They were married on June 29, 2012 at the Weakley County Courthouse where they took their vows to be husband and wife, in sickness and in health and for better or for worse.
In sickness and in health would take on a new meaning, unbeknownst to both of them, in the 2012 football season.
Flenorl suffered a career-ending neck injury at the Oct. 6, 2012 Homecoming game with 58 seconds left to play in the first half of the game against Eastern Illinois. At that point in the game, he had already had 10 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and a blocked PAT.
He was carted off the field and then taken via helicopter to Jackson Regional Medical Center for treatment. Before departing, the entire team went over to the ambulance to wish him luck.
It was in Jackson that he had two surgeries to fuse his vertebrae together. He was then transferred to Vanderbilt Hospital.
Life, at this point, was going to change and be very different.
But this change also brought he and Jennifer closer together.
"It was tense sometimes, but it [the injury] has brought us closer together. I commend her. She is my right hand. She is the one I want to live my life with," Flenorl said.
Most people would be devastated, but Flenorl seems to have taken it in stride, as just something that happened and that a few adjustments would be needed in his every day routine.
"I left it all on the field that day" Flenrol says of his previous life as an athlete after the play.
"I've become more patient since my injury and the small things I'm doing mean more to me," Flenorl said.
Since his injury, Flenorl has been working hard in physical therapy, regaining his strength and having to learn how to do simple tasks while wearing a brace.
Coming back to campus was a challenge, but he has received so much support from professors, coaches and fellow students on campus.
"People are more courteous. They hold doors and are very supportive," Flenorl said.
When talking to Flenorl about his classes, he mentions that Anna Clark, his English teacher, "is the best English teacher [he has] had," being "exciting, perky and involved."
He also mentions his health and human performance professor, Laura Brown, who assisted him after his injury.
"She worked with me and has made class fun. She tells jokes and helps bring her experience into the classroom," Flenorl said.
As for 10 years from now, Flenorl would like to focus on his family and work.
"I'd like to be working with my wife. She is going to PT [physical therapy] school and I want to go to PTA [physical therapy assistant] school. I want to open a clinic together and work. I want to be a great husband and a father when we have kids. Since we didn't have a big wedding, maybe we will have a big wedding on our 10 year anniversary," Flenorl said.
Flenorl is reflective when speaking about his injury.
"I've learned to be more patient. I left everything on the field that day, and I look at life now in a different way," Flenorl said.
He misses football, but knows that he is on a different path in life now.
He said that he won't miss the summer workouts and sprints but he will miss his team members.
Flenorl would like to leave a legacy of being an inspiration to his fellow football players, students and professors.
"Life knocks you down, but you will get back up," Flenorl said.
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