Overcoming Obstacles Award: Impressive return for St. Viator's Mahoney
Moving from football to basketball to baseball, year after year after year, Jack Mahoney was perhaps only short on time. Never on dedication or work ethic.
"I thought I knew what hard work was. I always took pride in being the hardest worker in the gym at all times," said Mahoney, a multisport athlete through his childhood and a three-sport athlete during all four years of his high school career at St. Viator.
"But then I had to work to get back from my injury. And that was the hardest I've ever worked in my whole life."
Mahoney, the starting quarterback for St. Viator, broke his left leg after a hard hit and fall against St. Patrick during Week 6 of the 2019 season.
He had 16 touchdowns and the Lions had positive momentum at the time.
After surgery, when Mahoney was finally given the green light to begin rehab, he struggled to simply move his toes.
"It was so discouraging," Mahoney said. "I've always been a guy who goes 100 miles per hour. And to not even be able to go 5 miles per hour was the hardest thing ever."
But Mahoney was determined to get back up and running to salvage at least a portion of basketball season. And he was absolutely driven to be 100 percent for baseball in the spring.
"I was confident I would be back, but there were a lot of barriers I had to break through mentally to trust that," Mahoney said. "It was frustrating, and mentally, it was really tough on me."
The difficult road back seemed to fit with some of the other challenges of Mahoney's high school experience: such as dealing with the deaths of three people close to him, or losing his senior baseball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mahoney, who did make it back for basketball season and has made the best of a spring without baseball, certainly epitomizes the idea of "overcoming obstacles."
The 2020 St. Viator graduate is the winner of the Daily Herald's Prep Sports Excellence Overcoming Obstacles Award.
"I wouldn't say my childhood was a story of adversity," Mahoney said. "But I did have some challenging moments through high school and I always just looked at it as 'Will I stay down, or will I get up?' I think the challenges turned into a fire inside of me, and I think I've come out with a smile on my face."
During the rehab of his leg, Mahoney was itching to make it back to basketball season, to get one last go-round with his friends.
A highly-recruited pitcher, he will be playing baseball in college at South Carolina. So his senior season of basketball at St. Viator would have likely been his last chance at competitive, organized basketball.
"I really wanted to get back and I was so excited when I finally got cleared," said Mahoney, who returned to the hardwood over the Martin Luther King Day weekend. "After my first game, I thought my leg was going to fall off. It hurt so bad.
"But it started to get better and I started playing more."
And soon after, Mahoney had even made his way back into the starting lineup.
The Lions were scheduled to play for a sectional championship in early March with a healthy Mahoney when the season got shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mahoney hoped all spring that at least a part of baseball season could be salvaged but that was lost, too.
And yet, if coming back from a broken leg has taught Mahoney anything, it is that perseverance and patience can pay off and that there are better days ahead.
Mahoney is optimistic for a college baseball season at South Carolina in the spring of 2021 and knows that he will be fully healthy and ready.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride for sure the last year or so," Mahoney said. "But I'm happy to see that I have come out on the other side."