It wasn’t the pain that Andrew Pettit remembers the most. It was a sound that he had never heard before. It was a loud “pop!” that told him that his season was over and his dreams would have to be put on hold.
Pettit was a star lacrosse player at Tower Hill School – he was the Delaware player of the year as a senior. And he’s been a lacrosse star at Lehigh University – last season, his 46 goals led the Patriot League, his average of 2.71 goals per game was 10th in the country and he was added to the watch list for the Tewaaraton Award, given annually to the nation’s top collegiate lacrosse player.
So, the future looked bright when Lehigh started spring workouts this year. Then, during an ordinary practice on an ordinary day, everything changed for Pettit. That’s when he heard the “pop!” that he now describes as terrifying. He had torn the ACL in his knee and, for the first time in his life, Andrew Pettit was on the outside looking in.
“At first, I was in shock and couldn’t believe that this could happen to me,” Pettit said. “It wasn’t until about an hour after I found out [the extent of the injury] that everything sunk in, which hit me really hard.
“I have never missed a game at Lehigh due to injury, and furthermore have never had an injury during the course of my entire lacrosse career that has caused me to miss a game,” Pettit added. “I have been very fortunate in that respect, so experiencing a season-ending injury is not something I ever expected to have to deal with.”
Now he has to deal with something else – he had surgery on the knee and now he has to grind through the arduous rehabilitation process, which takes a toll on the body and the mind.
“The mental part has certainly been the hardest part of this journey thus far,” Pettit said. “Especially with the expectations of this season for the team and myself, it was extremely difficult to cope with all of my aspirations for the year drifting away. It was hardest in the weeks after my injury, but since the surgery, my mentality has changed greatly and I have been appreciating all of the small milestones that have come my way with this rehab process. I have tried to keep as positive an outlook as possible and feel grateful for the opportunities that I have had.”
Pettit said those rehab milestones are really just stepping stones on the road to recovery and whether he likes it or not, he has to take them one at a time.
“The strangest part of recovering from a knee injury is that the milestones you are most excited about are things we take for granted every single day,” he said. “Bending your knee, being able to walk and being able to sit down are not flashy accomplishments by any means, but to me, they have become just as exciting as winning a game or scoring goals.”
In his second year as captain, Pettit isn’t sitting on the sidelines. Since his injury, he’s taken on more of a coaching role, using his experience to teach the younger guys on the team who have now found themselves in bigger roles.
Pettit still has dreams and aspirations for his lacrosse career, and he could come back next season as a fifth-year senior, which he said is “certainly an option.”
“There are many factors that will need to be considered between myself and my family and friends before I am able to make my final decision,” he said.
One factor in that decision-making process – Pettit would like to play professionally and his injury has put that dream on temporary hold, but it hasn’t canceled it.
“Before my injury, I had plans to play in the MLL [Major League Lacrosse] or PPL [Premier Lacrosse League], the two professional lacrosse leagues in the United States,” he said. “I had been contacted by several teams who planned to draft me. However, my injury has put that on hold.”
Beyond that, Pettit would also love to play on Team USA and represent his country, perhaps even in the Olympics.
“If I get my lacrosse career back on track, I would certainly try my best to make it on the Team USA as I feel that would be an incredible experience,” he said.
And if he doesn’t get his lacrosse career back on track, well, Pettit has planned for that, too. It’s never easy for an athlete, especially an elite athlete, to move on, but Pettit realizes that it is also inevitable. He’s a Finance major at Lehigh who minors in Real Estate and he would like to get in the real estate investment and finance fields in the future, hopefully in New York.
“I have many career aspirations and am excited to embark on my professional journey,” Pettit said. “As much as I love the game of lacrosse, in the end, it is just that – a game.”