ARLINGTON -- The players from Arlington Bowie were horsing around before practice on Thursday, including one who had no business being out there.
"The coaches didn't see me," said quarterback Keaton Perry, sheepishly. "Once one of our coaches came out, he gave me one of these," he said, motioning his hands as if saying "knock it off."
Of course, Keaton Perry has no business being out here at all. He tore his ACL in September. Two weeks later, he threw four touchdown passes against Weatherford.
"I talked to my dad, my doctor, and they reassured me I could play still," Perry said. "They gave me a new brace, taped me up, and that's when I made my decision to come back and play."
"It's changed everything," said head coach Danny DeArmon. "A kid gets hurt, he doesn't lay on the ground. Keaton is the example. For years to come, he's going to be the example around here."
Keaton can't run as fast or cut as quickly, but he can throw it just fine: 17 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He helped lead the Volunteers to a 7-3 record in the regular season.
"To see Keaton go through what he's gone through the last three years, and see he's still going to fight for us, it brings a lot of the team together," said Jordan Versey, a senior wide receiver.
When a player tears his ACL, it means he misses the rest of the season. That's what it always means. That's what it meant when Perry did it as a sophomore, and again as a junior.
When it happened a third time, Perry said, not this time.
"And this strap right here," said Perry, describing a strap on his brace that wraps around his leg just below the knee, "whenever I move, it will tighten up, and what it does, it pulls my shin back to keep it from sliding, like what an ACL would do."
When Perry got hurt again this year, his teammates had shirts made. On the front, they read, "Am I my brother's keeper," and on the back, "Yes I am," with Perry's No. 7 in the middle.
On game nights, every player wears one under his jersey.
"Someone showed me the shirt and I said, 'Why do you have my jersey?' And then I realized, everybody has No. 7," Perry said. "It means a lot to me."
"And then he comes back [from injury,] and they still wear it," DeArmon said. "Not once did it cross anybody's mind, 'Hey, wait a minute, he's back. 'Why are we still wearing these things?'"
What should have been another lost season has become one of the best stories of the 2013 football season.
"What a story to tell someday," DeArmon said. "He's quite an inspiration."