In a little less than a year, Christopher Aquino twice experienced first-hand the violent nature of playing football.
No matter where Aquino went on the field — during a practice or a game — it seemed as though he couldn’t escape a serious injury. He suffered a knee injury during his freshman season before coming up on the wrong end of a head-to-head collision while returning a kickoff as a sophomore.
The ailments haven’t deterred the senior Glendale High football player from stepping back on the field. He’s not gun shy about making a tackle or being tackled, clear indicators that he’s prepared to absorb or dish out additional physical punishment.
Aquino hasn’t played a full season since arriving at Glendale in 2009. He will look to change that when Glendale meets cross-town rival Hoover at 7 p.m. Friday in a Pacific League contest at Glendale’s Moyse Field.
“It’s just about being in the heat of the battle every game,” said Aquino, a wide receiver/defensive back/linebacker. “It’s a very intense game, but it’s also a lot of fun.
“You know going in that there’s always the chance of getting hurt. It’s tough any time you get an injury. You just don’t try to think about it and keep playing hard every down.”
While playing on the freshman team in 2009, Aquino suffered a left-knee injury. He partially tore his anterior cruciate ligament after the helmet of a teammate struck the unsuspecting Aquino, who would miss the last game of the season.
Aquino’s fortunes appeared to take a turn for the worse in 2010 while playing on the junior varsity squad. During a nonleague game against South Pasadena, Aquino returned a kickoff. After dodging several would-be tacklers, Aquino collided head-on with a South Pasadena player. He remained on the ground briefly before getting his bearings.
Aquino tried to shake off the effects from the vicious hit and was back in the huddle for the ensuing play. Once he broke the huddle, something didn’t seem right.
“I came out of the huddle and one of the officials asked me where I was going,” said Aquino, whose sophomore season was limited to two contests. “I was going to the wrong side of the line before I realized something wasn’t right.
“I went to my doctor and he said I had a slight concussion and that I couldn’t play anymore that year.”
As a precaution, Aquino’s doctor ruled him out from playing in 2011.
“My doctor told me to take a break from playing football and see what happens,” Aquino said. “It was hard for me because I wanted to do anything possible to help the team win.”
Aquino eventually passed a series of tests and was deemed fit in June to return to the gridiron for Glendale (2-7, 1-5 in league) under the direction of first-year coach John Tuttle.
After conversing with Tuttle, Aquino came back for his first varsity season in mint condition.
“He’s provided a lot of energy, and it’s continued throughout the season,” Tuttle said. “Going in, we were thinking how long would he last [on the field], but so far it’s been good.
“We’ve been able to get him in the right technique with respect to tackling, and he’s been able to stand up to all the responsibilities we’ve given him on both sides of the ball and special teams. He’s the kind of player you want on your team.”
Aquino has made 13 tackles and recorded an interception this season for Glendale, which will look to retain the “Victory Bell” with a win against improved Hoover (3-6, 1-5).
Aquino doesn’t reflect on the past several years when lining up across the line of scrimmage prepared to make a defensive stand.
“I’ve made some tackles,” Aquino said. “I always try to go out there being motivated and aggressive.
“I go for the tackles because I’m not scared to get in on the play. If I ever felt dizzy, I’d let the trainers know right away.”
Aquino’s teammate, Christian Osorio, said he can relate to Aquino’s experiences having sustained a pair of concussions.
Osorio, a senior running back/corner back, said Aquino has shown improvement despite missing a full season.
“He’s been a real good asset to our team because there’s a lot of things that he can do,” Osorio said. “He’s got that energy that’s used every single play and he’s got a good nose for the ball and where he needs to be in making a tackle.
“I know what he’s gone through with the concussions. We are just very happy to have him back.”
The Nitros would like nothing more than for Aquino to be involved in registering some big tackles against the Tornadoes.
Aquino said he’s set to contribute.
“No doubt, we want to beat Hoover,” Aquino said. “We want to stop their offense.
“I’m satisfied with the way I’ve played this season, and it would mean a lot to go out on a winning note and ring the bell.”