Tampa Bay Rowdies' defender makes shocking return after broken ankle
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - On loan from Nashville's Major League Soccer club this season, defender Robert Castellanos was supposed to provide a spark for the Tampa Bay Rowdies this year.
"It was a big decision, and we worked really hard to get him," said Rowdies Manager Neill Collins. "It was an area that we really needed filled."
That spark shattered just 12 minutes into the first game of the season. During the season opener, Castellanos went up for a ball, but when he came down knew something was wrong immediately.
"You just don't want to hear that noise," said Castellanos. "And then I lost feeling in my foot, so I knew it wasn't turning out to be good."
The Rowdies' new star defender had a broken right ankle, and his season was likely over just 12 minutes into it.
MORE: Sisters to host pop-up lemonade stand at Rowdies game to raise money for kids battling cancer
For a soccer player, breaking an ankle is catastrophic. It's an injury that left Castellanos scarred both figuratively and literally as the defender required surgery before beginning rehab.
"I got a plate here, a screw here, here and here," said Castellanos showing off an impressive scar along the inside of his right ankle.
But while most on the team figured his season was over, Castellanos was determined to prove them wrong, and he would.
Five months after a broken ankle should have ended his season, Castellanos was back at Al Lang Stadium playing in his first full game since the injury.
"That was just the best feeling," said Castellanos.
Every day, now, Castellanos takes the pitch with that scar as a reminder of what he's gone through.
"I think these things in life, whether they're related to football or not, pop up to teach you a lesson," said Collins. "It's the people that learn those lessons that go on and become better people, and it sounds like Castellanos has."
It's an injury, however, that will stay with Castellanos for the rest of his life for better or worse.
"I think it's probably one of the best things that's happened to me. I know it sounds weird," said Castellanos. "I know it sounds weird. Especially with injuries, it kind of puts things in perspective and makes you appreciate what you've got."
Castellanos said his ankle still feels stiff, and he may never be 100% healthy again, but when he's on the pitch, Castellanos said his ankle's stiffness goes away.