(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
The night of Thursday, August 16, Joell Archibald talked to her son Ben on the phone. "He was so tired," she said. "I told him, 'Oh Ben, I just hope you make it through two-a-days without getting hurt.'" The next day she received a call at work that Ben broke both the bones in his left leg.
As soon as the injury happened, Ben Archibald, a 6-4, 317 pound offensive guard, knew it was serious just by the looks on the faces of his teammates. To everyone around him it was obvious the injury was serious because the bone was sticking out of the skin.
Reno Mahe talked to Archibald, calmed him down and kept him from going into shock.
"I knew Ben went camping before we started two-a-days so I just told him, 'Let's go camping. I don't want to play football anymore, let's just go camping,'" Mahe said.
After the ambulance pulled away, the entire team kneeled in prayer.
Initially, Archibald did not think of the effect his injury would have on the team. Then he heard Coach Gary Crowton called off practice after the accident. Archibald also saw the video of the players' reactions to his injury and read the articles that were written about the team's loss.
After a successful surgery, Ben returned home with a 40-cm titanium rod in his fibula. When Archibald's mom heard about the accident, she went directly from work to the airport and flew to Provo without any luggage. She stayed with Ben for six days to help take care of him. Because Ben's birthday was two weeks after this injury, his mom bought him a lazy boy recliner, which he practically lived in for two weeks.
Ben's wife Jodi, who works as a real estate agent with Coldwell Bankers and as a server at Ruby River, was his dedicated caretaker during the two weeks of bed rest.
"She did all her normal duties plus take care of me full time," Archibald said. Then when he started classes, she drove him to class and returned an hour later to take him to his next class.
Ben's mom said Jodi's support and dedication to her husband has been amazing. She said sometimes difficult times can bring out the best and the worst in people, but Jodi has done anything and everything to help Ben.
Ben's parent's only missed one of his football games last year, and that game was in Hawai'i. That is the kind of support that surrounds Archibald.
There is no doubt Ben's injury was a tragic loss to the team, but the way he is dealing with his injury is an inspiration to everyone around him.
"The loss is bigger than anyone realizes," said Offensive Line Coach Lance Reynolds. "But you close the ranks and go on."
Reynolds said Ben is one of the most outgoing leaders and players on the team. "There have been thousands of hours of coaching and playing into him," Reynolds said. "You miss that."
Some of Ben's teammates used to call him "the technician" because he plays so technically sound.
The week before his injury, Ben was put on the list of candidates for the Outland Trophy. He was also invited to play in the Shrine Game in San Francisco and the Hula Bowl in Hawai'i. Over the last two seasons, Ben started all 24 games at offensive guard and was named second-team All-Mountain West Conference last year.
Ben's teammate and close friend Scott Jackson said, "He is a great leader. He has been here a long time and his experience is very needed. He has always been a great example. He does things right and he does them 100 percent."
Being raised in Gearhart, Ore., with a population of just 995, Ben understands the importance of building relationships with people, and he has been exceptionally successful with those on his team.
Mahe said, "Everyone on the team likes Ben. Even the people who don't know him like him. That's just the kind of person he is."
On August 26, Ben celebrated his 24th birthday and made his first journey from his house since the injury. Of course his first stop was football practice. When he showed up, the team gave him three cheers and welcomed him back. Ben only stayed at practice for 30 minutes, but he was exhausted by the time he got home.
Jackson has also suffered a couple serious injuries, and so he understands a little bit of what Ben is going through (see story below). Just before the 2000 season, Jackson broke his ankle and has 12 screws and a metal plate keeping everything in place. Then in November of last year, he tore his ACL and had reconstructive surgery.
"It is hard being injured," Jackson said. "The team moves on, and rehab takes a long time."
Jackson said Ben has never got down and he has stayed extremely active with the team.
"When some people get injured they say, 'Woe is me,' and they only think about themselves. Sometimes they think their career is over so they go off and do their own things," Jackson said. "Ben hasn't been like that. He involves himself with the team. He comes to some meetings, he comes to practice and he has traveled with us to a few games."
Ben said one of his biggest struggles has been not having a defined role. "I'm not a player and I'm not a coach," he said. "But I just try to be around and talk to the guys."
He still goes to practice almost every day and has traveled to several of the away games. "I want to be part of the team, but I don't want to be pushy," Ben said.
But the adjustment has not been easy.
"The first game was the toughest," he said. "I came out of the locker room in my wheel chair and the fans were chanting, 'We need you.' My mom pushed my wheel chair to the press box and I felt out of place. I felt like I was leaving something behind."
Jackson said it helps the team to have him around to give encouragement, and it helps Ben to be around the team.
As part of his involvement with the team, Ben organizes a weekly pizza night with the offensive linemen and their wives or girlfriends. Every Wednesday night they get together at Pier 49 and eat pizza.
Coach Reynolds said the weekly get-together helps the chemistry of the linemen. Jackson said, "It is fun because we can do something together outside of practice. Plus I think Ben just wanted the pizza."
One of Ben's several nicknames is "the party planner." Jackson said it started when Ben worked at All Event & Tent Rental, but now that he plans the weekly pizza party it fits even better.
Ben still spends time in the weight room, but now his focus is rehab. His mom said his recovery has been a miracle. At his six-week check up, the x-rays showed bone growth, which the doctors said they have never seen so early. Ben's mom, a registered nurse, said he has been optimistic and positive and has done everything he can to recover.
"Sometimes people who have injuries like this never recover completely," she said. Ben remembers hearing about another football player who had a similar injury. After the surgery his wound got infected and his leg had to be amputated.
Ben's mom said no matter what happens with football, Ben won't be impaired or disabled, and that is the important thing.
He attributes his quick recovery to all the support and prayers he has received from friends and family.
"Every time I go anywhere people I haven't seen for years ask me how I'm doing and tell me they are praying for me," he said.
In late November or December, Ben will find out if the NCAA will grant him a sixth year for medical hardship. Archibald used his redshirt before leaving on a two-year mission to Tucson, Ariz. (Spanish-speaking) for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
NCAA rules state that athletes must complete their eligibility within a five-year period, but many sixth year exceptions have been granted in the past. Coach Reynolds said it is hard to know if Ben will be granted an exception because each case is decided on an individual basis.
Everyone is hopeful he will get a senior year of football, but Ben is also trying to prepare himself in case he cannot come back. Whether he gets a sixth year or not, Ben will try to make the NFL.
Coach Reynolds said there is no question Ben has the skills to make it in the NFL, but the uncertainty is what the NFL's perception of his health will be. Ben understands it will be much harder to get drafted if he does not play his senior year, but he is willing to try.
In April, he will graduate in Health Science with a double minor in Spanish Teaching and Drivers Education. Ben has a 3.34 GPA and earned MWC All-Academic honors last year.
If he is granted another year of eligibility, Ben will do graduate work or an internship. He has even thought about going into sports psychology and helping players deal with injuries.
Ultimately, he wants to teach and coach. Jackson said he thinks Ben would make a great coach because he works hard and is great with people.
"Whatever he chooses to do he'll do great," Jackson said. "He is always learning a lot and getting better. He is very coachable and that will make him a great coach."
Amid the disappointment and frustration of his injury, Ben has been able to see the positive side.
"Good things have come out of this injury," he said. "There is a greater plan, and hopefully I can look back and see more good things."
Jodi, Ben's wife, said the experience has taught them to have patience with each other and has strengthened their relationships. They had only been married four months when Ben was injured. "It jolted us out of the honeymoon phase," Jodi said.
"They say bad things happen to good people, and that is really true," she said. But she said bad things happen to help people grow.
Ben said he has been able to develop qualities that he wants in himself, like patience and mental toughness. But best of all, he has been able to spend a lot of time with his wife.
Archibald said football has always been an important part of his life, but it isn't the most important thing.
By talking to Ben, his family and teammates, you can see that his relationship with people is one thing that comes before football.
Healing Broken Bones of BYU Football Players
Injuries are common in contact sports, and the football players seem to produce bone-breaking results. Offensive lineman Ben Archibald (see above story) had two compound fractures in his leg, but he should be okay in six months, according to BYU Trainer George Curtis.
Curtis is great at fixing broken bones and has personally broken his leg, fingers, toes, back, neck, collar bone, ribs, hand, nose and cheekbone out of the 206 possible bones in the human body. Curtis said Rob Morris had 110 x-rays for his broken thumb and finger during his time as a BYU linebacker. And Curtis relates that former Cougar running back Peter Tuipulotu suffered a broken ankle chasing Ty Detmer away from the playing field. Last season, Jay Omer, BYU strength and condition coach, suffered a broken leg when he was crashed into on the sidelines of the Utah football game.
Dr. Darrell Stacey, the BYU football team doctor, said every year they have several players who fracture a bone. He said the most common breaks are in hands because they get caught in a face mask or a player lands wrong.
A fractured bone can take from six weeks to several months to heal, but often athletes can still play with a broken bone, Stacey said. Breaks in places like the collar bone or ribs are painful, but not particularly dangerous, he said. "If they want to play, we give them protection and let them go."
Unlike ligament and tendon injuries, fractured bones that heal properly come back to 100 percent, but the problem is they do not always heal properly.
To increases the chances of the bone healing properly, BYU uses a device that stimulates bone growth and increases the rate of healing. It is a mobile unit that wraps around the leg or arm. It is so expensive that very few people can afford to use it, but the use of the equipment is donated to BYU.
This is not a comprehensive list of all the bone fractures in BYU history, but there are several players who have broken a bone in the last few years.
List of Some Broken Cougar Bones
Player Fractured bone Year injured
Ben Archibald Leg 2002
Bret Engemann Finger 2002
Justin Jory Foot 2002
Brady Poppinga Thumb 2002
Nate Soelberg Back 2002
Brandon Doman Rib 2001
Justin Jory Ankle 2001
Luke Staley Leg 2001
Levi Madarieta Rib 2001
Reno Mahe Foot 2001
Mike Nielson Leg 2001
Paul Peterson Wrist 2001
Ned Stearns Wrist 2001
*Scott Jackson Ankle 2000
Kalani Sitake Ankle, Leg 1999
Rob Morris Finger, Thumb 1998
Kalani Sitake Back 1997
Eric Bateman Ankle 1997
Brad Martin Thumb 1996
Itula Mili Wrist 1995
Chad Lewis Rib 1993
*Peter Tuipulotu Ankle 1991
Chuck Cutler Thumbs, Ribs 1988
Mike Salido Leg 1988
*Injury not incurred playing football