In week one of the 2018 season, an ankle injury halted a promising senior season for Nigel Drummond.
For some, such a devastating injury would be a career-ending one.
Not for Drummond. He refuses to let his dream die that way. Instead, Drummond has accepted a preferred walk-on offer at Ohio University.
"I don't want me getting injured to be my last memory of football," Drummond says. "That's why I wanted to play at the next level and see my dreams come true."
Drummond is the second Wildcat to decide to play for the Bobcats. Jett Elad, one of Drummond's closest friends, accepted a scholarship offer in September. Another Wildcat or two may commit to OU before National Signing Day, too.
The Cleveland native's journey to Division I football kicked into gear at Saint Ignatius. Drummond worked his way up to the varsity team as a junior after playing on the freshman and JV teams. The fast, shifty wideout earned playing time in 2017. Drummond developed a knack for hauling deep passes, including a 67-yard touchdown pass against Archbishop Moeller. Drummond finished the season with 13 catches for 242 yards and a touchdown pass, averaging 18.6 yards per catch. Drummond also emerged as a solid punt returner.
Entering the 2018 season, the Saint Ignatius coaching staff looked upon Nigel as a playmaking deep threat at wideout. Drummond began the season at the top of the depth chart at receiver. His teammates and coaches also recognized his leadership ability, as Drummond was named a captain before the start of the season.
In the opening game of the season, Drummond caught a pair of passes against Archbishop Hoban. On his second reception, Drummond hauled in a pass in the flat before galloping 59 yards. Then, injury struck.
"We had several weird injuries and things that happened last year with key people, who all of the sudden are not there. Going into the season, we thought Nigel was going to be the home run guy," Head Coach Chuck Kyle '69 said. "He can catch the ball, he can break deep, he can put a move on a guy, making a short pass into a big one. He's smart, veteran, always has a smile on his face. Then in the second quarter, he catches the ball and breaks his ankle on the tackle. It was really disappointing for him, but he kept a really positive attitude."
Drummond knew the severity of the injury, but did not stop working. The captain continued to come to practice and work towards a comeback.
"I knew that some of the younger guys, and even guys in my grade, looked up to me and saw me as a leader," Drummond said. "I had to teach the young guys the way and make sure everyone is working to the best of their ability. If they see me with a smile on my face, even though I want to be on the field, I can let them know that they can do the same thing. You still have to think positively and work as hard as you can."
Due to the injury, Drummond missed the rest of the 2018 season. But to define his season by an injury would not be right.
"He was at every practice," Kyle said proudly. "He would help in his boot, throwing balls to people, anything he could to help. He was a captain and he did a very good job at that."
Drummond enjoyed the journey, despite the unfortunate end to his career with the Wildcats.
"It's been a great ride," Drummond said. "Joining and creating that brother between my teammates and with past players, looking up to them and paving the way for me. Even though senior year didn't go as planned for me, I still had a good time being a captain and a leader. It was a fun ride."
Following the end of the 2018 campaign, college coaches started calling.
Despite a lack of senior year film, Drummond flashed plenty of speed and skill during his junior season. His athleticism and catching ability jumped out on film, leading a host of schools to offer him spots as a preferred walk-on. Drummond had his choice of schools.
In the end, Ohio University felt like the right place to spend the next four years.
"When I visited, it felt like home," Drummond said. "The coaches showed a lot of interest. I felt like I was wanted there. The way they work and the way they coach reminds me of Saint Ignatius. That helped a lot with the decision. It was honestly the best place for me."
Drummond visited OU last week, and walked away impressed. He called the Athens campus "beautiful." The school's top-flight business school also appealed to him. Drummond plans to major in business at OU.
Another huge plus is the chance to go to school with Elad.
"Having Jett there in my best friend, and knowing I have a brother already going there is great. I'm rooming with him also," said Drummond.
With a full college career ahead of him, Drummond has a bright future at OU and beyond.
"I hope that Nigel stays healthy and shows totally what he can do. Because who knows? He could move up from preferred walk-on," Kyle said. "I still believe he's a guy who can make a special play. He's a very good student and a very good example for our younger guys. I'm glad he feels comfortable going to this situation. I think he's excited about it."
Congratulations and good luck at OU, Nigel!