It’s been a long, frustrating two-year span for Collin Hendrickson. The Clear Creek High School football senior has been battling to get healthy after a plethora of injuries plagued his last two seasons, but now he’s back to making a big impact on the field.
Throughout his freshman year, Hendrickson dealt with back pain, which he addressed once the season was over. After several tests, doctors found one of his vertebrae was fractured.
“I needed to get screws put in, and basically the spine fused together, which would mean an eight-to-10-month recovery time,” Hendrickson said. “That took me out for my sophomore season. Then for my junior season, I was playing basketball at a Denver University camp, and I hyperextended my right knee, and thought I tore my ACL.”
An MRI revealed it was just a deep bone bruise, which Hendrickson called “a miracle,” but it would still sideline him for another season.
For a competitor like Hendrickson, that was agonizing. He would still suit up and support his teammates from the sidelines in any way he could, but it couldn’t compare to going to war on the field with them.
“I’ve played basketball more than football, but football’s my most enjoyable sport to play,” he said. “It was definitely pretty frustrating, to say the least, because I’m the type of guy that just wants to play no matter what. (Head Coach Nick Isaacson)’s saying is always ‘Have a glass of suck-it-up.’ I couldn’t really do that. I had to wait it out. It was a bummer, for sure.”
But now Hendrickson is back and with a vengeance. The 6-foot-5 senior has one season left at Clear Creek, and he wants to make the most of it.
Hendrickson plays both sides of the ball; on offense as a lengthy receiver and lead blocker, and as a defensive end. But the most important position he plays is a leader for the team, according to Isaacson.
“Everybody looks up to Collin,” Isaacson said. “He’s always giving 100% effort, whether on offense or defense … He leads not just by voice, but by example. And that improves the rest of the team.”
Sitting on the sidelines for two straight seasons changes how you view the game, Hendrickson said. It’s a totally different experience in pads and a helmet, reading defenses and formations in real-time as they happen.
But being in the action again is intoxicating. Hendrickson said he can understand all the plays and assignments in theory, and he had plenty of time to study them from the sideline. But putting them to practice and executing them on game days is a different animal, and one he’s thrilled to have back.
“Even the things that suck, like getting hit hard, conditioning after practice, or whatever it is, at the end of the day, it’s all really fortunate (that I’m back),” Hendrickson said. “Behind it all, I’m just grateful for it.”
It’s not just how he processes football that is different this season; it’s the entire team and football program’s focus, Hendrickson said.
Isaacson and his coaching staff, which includes Hendrickson’s father, have raised the standards beyond what Hendrickson has seen in his time at Clear Creek.
“It feels a lot different,” he said. “The entire coaching staff has really ramped up levels of standard for us. Whether it’s always jogging on the field, never putting each other down … None of those negative things fly anymore. I feel like in past seasons, I feel like those things were not accepted at all, but we got away with those things, and we can’t anymore. As players, we’re holding each other accountable.”
The positivity has shown on the win-loss column as well. After dropping a close game to Ellicott 30-22 in week one, Hendrickson said the players went to practice with a new level of focus and intensity.
The next two weeks, Clear Creek posted 46 points in two consecutive victories, beating The Pinnacle 46-0 before taking down South Park 46-6. Now, the Golddiggers sit at 2-1, which matches the total number of victories recorded all last season.
(Editor’s note: This story was written prior to Clear Creek’s week four matchup on Sept. 23. Isaacson said Sheridan canceled, and the team was scrambling to find another opponent.)
But Clear Creek will be challenged when league play begins. Last season, the Golddiggers finished 2-7, going 0-5 in league play.
“The big test will be against Strasburg (on Sept. 30),” Isaacson said. “It’s still a little too early to tell.”
But Hendrickson said he doesn’t see a limit to this team’s potential success as the season rolls on.
“I think there’s no cap, there’s no ceiling and there’s no limits for our success as a team,” Hendrickson said. “Obviously I think that because I play on the team, and I wouldn’t think otherwise, ever. But even being realistic, I feel like we can match up very well against all these bigger teams that we’ve been intimidated against in the past. But I genuinely believe we have a chance to give them a run for their money and win ultimately. And if we don’t win, it’s going to be close.”
For the Golddiggers’ remaining 2023-24 schedule, visit www.maxpreps.com/co/evergreen/clear-creek-golddiggers/football/schedule/