A few months ago, doctors told Nick Franchot ’07 it was unlikely he would even fully see a soccer field again. But today, Franchot will not only see a game, he may play in one, when the Elis travel to Fairfield.
Franchot has more than recovered from a season-ending eye injury he received in a game at Hartford last year, when the then-sophomore challenged a Hawks midfielder on the sideline. An errant cross caught him square in the right eye, causing immediate swelling and temporary blindness.
“Nick instantly fell to the ground,” said defender Evan Stone ’07, who was playing directly behind Franchot at the time of the injury. “At first we thought he’d been hit in the face and was, you know, a little stunned, but when I went over to see if he was okay it was obviously something worse.”
Hartford’s team doctors took Nick to the sideline and asked him what he could see out of his right eye.
“I told them I couldn’t see anything out of that eye because it had been swollen shut. When they told me that my eye was actually open I realized that I’d lost vision,” Franchot said.
Doctors at the hospital in Hartford told Franchot that he had pinched the nerve behind his right eye, causing permanent loss of vision and potentially requiring removal of the eye to prevent brain damage.
Within two days the entire team had visited their teammate at the hospital. Midfielder Jordan Rieger ’07, who relayed reports on Franchot’s progress to the team almost daily, noted how quickly the team gathered to support their fallen comrade.
“After the injury there were people constantly visiting him,” Rieger said. “I don’t think there was an hour that went by when people weren’t seeing him. It’s kind of sad to see that it takes such a bad thing to make people come together, rather than something that we can celebrate.”
Franchot started attending practices and team functions as soon as he was released from the hospital. But head coach Brian Tompkins said that although no one on the team doubted Franchot’s determination to be on the field again, there was general concern at the severity of the injury.
There are no rehabilitation strategies for optic nerve injuries like the one Franchot sustained. All doctors could do was prescribe rest in the hope that the optic nerve might somehow heal itself.
Immediately after the injury, Franchot’s vision was 20:800 — what a normal person saw at 800 feet, Franchot could only see at 20 feet. He saw no color and was barely able to pick up motion. Now, his vision has improved to 20:70.
By spring 2005, Franchot was back on the field, working to get back to where he was before the injury. Several Bulldogs said that some freshmen on the team do not even know about the injury because Franchot always strived to avoid being a distraction for the team during his recovery.
Tompkins said Franchot’s rebound from the injury surprised no one.
“I think understated is a good word for Nick,” Tompkins said. “He’s not an attention-seeker, and he certainly has no prima donna qualities about him. He’s a team-oriented guy, and he didn’t want to draw any extra attention to himself — at least not that type of attention.”
But Franchot’s teammates do not confuse understated with unnoticeable. Nick’s relentless play on the field gets noticed by itself, forward Alex Munns ’07 said.
“His attitude on the field is indicative of his personality,” Munns said. “He’s a tireless worker, he’s very spirited, very determined; you’d have to be to come back from an injury like his.”
After Franchot recovered some of his sight, he returned quickly to academics and soccer. Tompkins said the always-improving Franchot is likely to play an ever-increasing role on the field.
“He’s a veteran, he’s been around a couple of years now,” Tompkins said. “Even since the spring we’ve seen noticeable improvement. Now I don’t feel he’s ready to start yet, but we expect him to come off the bench and help us a lot.”
Regardless of his role on the field this year, Franchot’s mere presence is likely to uplift those who know him best.
“It’s inspiring to see a guy working his tail off like Nick has to get back on the field and contribute to the team,” Rieger said.
The Elis hope the accident that brought the team together last season can serve as continued inspiration during the 2005 campaign. The team’s response, and Franchot’s hard work, reflect the platform upon which Tompkins builds the program.
“As a coach, the thing that concerns me most is having an environment that is a compassionate and considerate and caring one,” Tompkins said. “The team response was tremendous. Nick felt that support from the team, and I think his teammates in return saw the power of his own determination to return.”
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