Roldan Alcobendas was months away from trying to kick again for the Eastern Washington University football team.
That he would ever again split the uprights at Roos Field in Cheney seemed a longer shot than a 50-yarder into the wind.
The ligaments in his left knee had been surgically repaired for a second time. The injury suffered the prior year would cause him to miss the entire 2015 season as well.
It was a double-whammy for someone who also lost his entire 2013 season to a knee injury.
There were times the 2013 Camas High School graduate thought about quitting.
Perhaps it was pride, maybe stubbornness. But in those moments of doubt, something always kicked in.
“Each time after I was injured, I had a sense of needing something to accomplish,” Alcobendas said in a phone interview. “I wanted to prove something to myself, my family and everyone who has supported me.”
Saturday, Alcobendas will handle kickoffs, field goals and extra points when Eastern Washington faces Youngstown State in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals in Cheney.
Sure, there will be butterflies if he’s called upon for a potential game-winning field goal. But it won’t be any harder than simply getting back on the field.
“It has been a long journey with a lot of highs and lows,” Alcobendas said.
Alcobendas starred in football and soccer at Camas High. On the football team, he was first-team all-league twice and had a career long field goal of 52 yards. His senior season, 96 percent of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
He signed with Eastern Washington. The following spring, he tore ligaments in his left knee during the high school soccer season.
Alcobendas faced a year of rehabilitation. As a right-footed kicker, his left knee absorbs all the force when his leg plants just before a kick.
In facing his first major injury, there were plenty of uncertainties. He had no doubt, however, that he made the right college choice.
“Getting news that the kicker they just signed had just gotten hurt, they could have dropped me,” Alcobendas said. “But the coaches stuck with me, and that means the world.”
Alcobendas was back to full strength in time for 2014 spring practices. He was named starting placekicker the following fall.
But in the fourth game of the season, injury struck again. His ligaments in his left knee tore again after a kickoff against Montana State.
“I had rehabbed a whole year and lost it all in one split second,” Alcobendas said. “That’s what hurt the most.”
Back at square one, there were moments of doubt. After the surgery, it took several weeks before Alcobendas could walk without crutches and several more before he could run.
Alcobendas said the hardest aspects of rehabilitation were mental, not physical.
“Just waking up every day and knowing I’m not going to be ready tomorrow,” he said. “I’d wake up and say, ‘why am I doing this?'”
Trust and support sustained Alcobendas. Eastern Washington’s training staff guided him through the physical rehabilitation.
His family did the rest.
“They gave me a sense of hope,” he said. “They pushed me. My mom and dad, they’d call me every day to make sure I was doing alright with my rehab and studies.”
Taking flight again
After missing the 2015 season, Alcobendas reclaimed his starting role this fall. This season he has made 8 of 14 field goals with a long of 48 yards. He has made 68 of 69 extra points for the high-flying Eagles offense, which is second in the nation at 533.5 yards per game.
Alcobendas said his range is down slightly, but he can still hit from 50 yards.
Ironically, one of Alcobendas’ favorite plays this season was one in which he didn’t kick.
With former Camas teammate Reilly Hennessey as the holder, Eastern scored a touchdown on a fake field goal with 43 seconds left to beat Northern Iowa 34-30.
“I had butterflies even though I knew I wasn’t going to kick,” Alcobendas said. “Me and Reilly practiced it all week. I knew he would sell the fake. But the world stopped when (receiver Beau Byus) caught the ball in the end zone.”
Some players find their love of football in the rush of a big play or a dramatic win.
Alcobendas found his during months of monotonous rehab.
“I’ve learned to really love the game,” Alcobendas said. “I’ve really embraced the entire culture of Eastern Washington football.”