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Finally healthy and running wild

Joey Valdivia has eight rushing touchdowns through three games. He had nine through his first three injury-plagued seasons.
Photo by Matt Weidner 

Joey Valdivia thought he would never play football again after breaking his foot in 2014.

The foot injury that forced him to miss that entire season came after he was a medical redshirt in 2013 because of a hamstring injury. But he bounced back, even after missing four games last year because of an ankle injury. And Valdivia is back with a vengeance as one of the country's top rushers so far this season, averaging 178.3 yards per game.

That total is one of the best in all of Division III football and Valdivia and coach Jim Catanzaro hopes the trend continues going into the Foresters' biggest game of the season against league favorite Monmouth at home on Saturday.

"It was a good feeling staying healthy," Valdivia modestly said this week. "It's been a long road but I'm just happy that things have been outstanding so far. I've been trying to do all the right things with my body to stay healthy.

"The (offensive) line is doing a great job blocking for me and the coaches have been calling all the right plays, putting me in a position to succeed and keep going."

Valdivia said even in the opening game against Carleton, where he rushed for the fourth-highest total in Lake Forest history with 223 yards, it was just all about the team and the victory more than any personal accomplishment.

"For me, it was all about going 1-0 and I was just happy to get the win," Valdivia said. "I was with the guys and I don't pay too much attention about the stats. I just worry about getting the W. That's good enough for me."

Catanzaro said that Valdivia has made the most of his absence and has returned stronger than ever in the Lake Forest backfield, despite the time off.

"The best part about it is that we're finally starting to see the guy that we recruited," Catanzaro said. "He's even improved beyond that but it's great because it allows us to open up some things in the run and pass game because he's contributed there as well."

Always a hard-driving runner, Catanzaro said Valdivia has become more elusive, adding to the ways he can gain extra yardage during carries.

"He's always had that ability to run through guys," Catanzaro said. "I think one of the things he's done with more consistency this season is to avoid the big collision and accelerate. He hasn't had to power run and break through tackles. He's been able to make guys miss tackles.

"The only thing I can say is that he does so much to keep his body healthy...

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Columnist

Clyde Hughes

Clyde Hughes has been writing sports at various times over the past 24 years, covering everything from high school, college and sporting events. A native of football-crazed Texas, Hughes works in Indiana and has written for numerous newspapers and magazines.
2003-04 columnist: John Regenfuss

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