Travante Stallworth scores a touchdown in Tigers' season opener.
It was the second quarter of Auburn's Homecoming game against Furman. An Auburn player came flying down the field on a kickoff, hurling his body into the return man to make a tackle. When he tried to get up, he immediately knew something was wrong as pain shot up and down his right leg. He tried to walk but he couldn't put weight on his right knee. Trainers had to help him off the field before being taken to the locker room. That was the last play Wide Receiver Travante Stallworth played in the 2009 season.
Stallworth's role had been increasing that year and it appeared he may have been on his way to being an important cog in the Tiger offense when the dreadful ACL injury occurred. He had played in all 10 games before that November day in 2009.
A player who has always had a reputation as a hard worker, Vonnie (as his teammates call him) threw him self into serious rehab to make his way back after surgery. When not rehabbing his knee, he spent countless hours in the film room studying plays, alignments, and strategy.
But ACL injuries take a long time to recover from and Stallworth only saw action in three games in 2010. Adding to the setback was the arrival of other wide out recruits, most of whom were a good three to seven inches taller than the 5' 9" Stallworth. So while he was rehabbing he fell further behind on the depth chart.
And there was the added concern that Stallworth might not ever make it back to the speed and cutting ability he had before his injury; yet fellow teammates swear he was his old elusive and speedy self during this year's preseason practices.
Wide Receivers Coach Trooper Taylor said that Travante is a hard worker and smart player. He said Vonnie having played quarterback in high school, gave him a unique understanding of the game, and the extra time in the film room help make him a very "savvy player."
Now 22 months after he was helped off the field with a potential career ending injury, Travante Stallworth is finally back and appears to be poised to assume the mantle of star receiver. This could very well be the year he breaks out just as Darvin Adams did in 2009 and Emory Blake in 2010.
One thing is for sure, he has worked hard to make it back; driven in part by the lessons taught to him by his father, an Army soldier who has missed most of Travante's games due to serving several tours in the Middle East. "He really hasn't seen me play, except one or two games my freshman year of high school." said Travante.
For the most part dad has had to follow the Tigers via the internet from 7,000 miles away. However, Travante said it was his father who was instrumental in his recovery, "With all I've been through, like tearing my ACL two years ago, my dad just told me to keep my head and just stay humble, and the Lord will work things out. I try to live my whole life just staying humble."
Well it seems that was good advice because Vonnie not only started in the 2011 season opener against Utah State, he also had four catches for 93 yards and one touchdown. And guess who was there to see him play. That's right, his father Sgt. Major James Stallworth, home from his 4th tour of duty in Iraq.
Dad's advice has paid off and it now looks like the Sgt. Major will be here for the first time in several years to cheer his son on for an entire football season.
For Vonnie, it doesn't get any better than that.