KYLE BEERY | STAFF REPORTER
Overcoming adversity: Any sports nut knows that this is key to winning a championship. While the Butler football team is not in position to win a Pioneer Football League championship, they have overcome plenty of adversity over the last few years.
One player in particular is senior captain and safety Jojo Ciancio. Ciancio is a fifth-year senior who has battled injuries throughout his entire career.
Ciancio tore his ACL in his right leg freshman year and took a medical redshirt. Ciancio then played two games his first year of eligibility, earning scout team defensive player-of-the-year.
During the beginning of sophomore training camp, he strained his left LCL and missed the first game.
Last year Ciancio finally went into the season healthy, but he soon dislocated, broke and tore ligaments in his left thumb in a game against Dayton, leaving him to play the final three games of the season with a cast on his hand.
Ciancio is currently battling patellofemoral pain syndrome—the wearing down of ligaments in the leg—in the same leg he had ACL surgery on. He has been able to play through it, however, and he expects to play the final three games of the season.
Ciancio said the injuries have actually motivated him throughout his career. He said he will not let his sore leg hold him out of his final three games.
a couple games and have them watch me a few more times before I’m done for good,” McInally said.
The Bulldogs head into Saturday’s performance four games behind PFL leader Jacksonville University (7-1, 5-0 PFL). McInally said the defense will have to be focused to handle the Eagles’ no-huddle offense.
“They will immediately line up (after running a play), they won’t have the play call yet, but they will get lined up so you can’t really sub off the field,” McInally said. “It is really a test of conditioning more than anything.”
Head coach Jeff Voris said the Eagles are a fast team, but he expects to play them tough. He said the Drake game was one of the first times in a while that the Bulldogs played a complete 60-minute game but just came up short on one or two plays that could have changed the outcome. Voris said the Bulldogs are looking to play another complete game in all three phases of football.
“It was one of those games where we needed one more play,” Voris said. “It is one of those deals where we’re proud of the effort. We fought, and we competed, and it will be a good springboard for this week, as I think our attitude is great and our focus is there.”
Malcolm Weaver, who took over the starting quarterback role for the injured Matt Shiltz, also said they will use the momentum of a complete game heading into the bout with the Eagles.
“Just knowing that we can put a 60-minute game together is good,” Weaver said. “As a team, we know there’s a few things we have got to fix up.”
Voris said it is good to see the motivation players such as Ciancio, Stewart and McInally have, especially when they are just playing for pride now.
“These guys are playing because they love the game,” Voris said. “There is nothing that is bringing them out here other than the love of the game and the pride they have for representing Butler and the friendship they have with the players.”
Voris said he has a special group of players because of that reason, and it goes beyond just Ciancio, Stewart and McInally.
“That’s what keeps them coming back, and that tells you a little bit about them as people,” Voris said. “No matter what they happen to be going through that day, they see the benefit of how they fit into the program and what they can bring someone else at that moment.”
“It is a fun group to coach, and those are just a couple of guys that have been a special part of what we are doing,” Voris said.
“If you are going to put the pads on and go out and play, you don’t really think about it, you just try and block it out,” Ciancio said. “Because you know someone else out there with you has something going on, too. No one is perfectly healthy every week.”
Senior running back Don Stewart has been faced with adversity of his own. On top of patella tendinitis and tearing his MCL during sophomore year, Stewart lost his mother to breast cancer over the summer.
Stewart said his mother was diagnosed right before he started college and he wasn’t even sure if he would play football.
“She wanted to help me and wanted me to go through with what I wanted to do,” Stewart said. “She wanted me to get a good education, which is why I chose Butler, really.
Stewart said because of injuries, he was not sure if he would play this season, but his mother’s death, it was not an option.
Stewart said losing someone is not something you forget about, but playing football helps block it out.
“It will never really leave my mind,” Stewart said, “but this definitely helps, just being out here with them, laughing, having fun and playing football.
Stewart also said a lot of teammates attended the funeral, and he looks at them as brothers.
“There were almost 20 teammates there,” Stewart said. “That just shows that this is like a family in itself. We care about each other outside of football.”
Junior defensive lineman Nick McInally has a similar story. One friend passed sway during his sophomore year, the other died the week of this year’s Stetson game.
McInally said knowing his friends aren’t around to cherish his football career with him motivates him.
“Just knowing that my friends that passed away do not really have that opportunity anymore makes me live vicariously through them and kind of project the things they missed out on my football career,” McInally said.
McInally is now also facing an injury after hurting his ankle in last Saturday’s loss at Drake University. McInally, who is wearing a boot at all times off the field, said there is no structural damage, but he is in pain all the time.
“I just have to play through it, because it’s not going to get any better,” McInally said.
McInally said he toughed it out and looks forward to doing the same and playing in front of his family, as it will be family weekend.
“I want to make sure I can finish off the year playing