Caadyn Stephen, the Camas High School (CHS) football team’s top college recruit, announced his decision to play for the University of Southern California (USC) before the start of the 2019 season, but a sore back forced him to the sidelines in late September.
He’s been out of action ever since, working hard to recover with CHS athletic trainer Jake Howell in long physical therapy sessions.
“It’s been super frustrating,” Stephen said last week while receiving ultrasound therapy in the CHS training room. “I mean, I love watching my team win, but it’s so painful at the same time because I want to be out there playing.”
His back started feeling a bit sore during summer workouts, but the pain increased during the Papermakers’ game against West Valley on Sept. 20.
“I’ve never been hurt before,” Stephen said. “They say it just needs a bit of time, nothing serious.”
He’s closely following a special physical therapy program designed by his future trainers at USC.
12 offers, 7 from Pac-12 schools
Stephen moved to Camas from Anchorage, Alaska, in 2017, hoping for more exposure to college recruiters. That strategy not only worked for CHS, but it also helped him achieve his goal of being recruited to play football at the next level.
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Stephen received 12 official offers from National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-I programs, including seven Pac-12 schools. He decided to become a Trojan after visiting the Los Angeles school several times last summer.
“We are on great terms, and I’m really looking forward to getting down there,” Stephen said.
Learning to contribute in new ways
For the first time since the injury, Stephen felt good enough to suit up for the Papermakers’ 4A state tournament semifinal game against Mount Si High School on Nov. 30 at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver.
Even though he did not get an opportunity to play, he contributed to CHS’ 35-14 win in other ways.
“Caadyn has been a good teammate supporting the (offensive) line, and we all look forward to watching him play on Saturdays,” Papermakers coach Jon Eagle said.
From the sideline, Stephen provides motivation and tips to other players throughout the games. He said a player can only see so much while playing in a game, but the sidelines provide a different point of view.
“When our right tackle, Rush Reimer, comes off the field, I give him some pointers about what he can do with his hand placement, his feet placement and if he’s high or low,” Stephen said. “It’s something that can help the team.”
He also gave a shout-out to senior Tyler Criddle, who has stepped up to fill in at right tackle. After the Papermakers’ win over the Wildcats, Stephen was in the middle of the post-game huddle, celebrating and yelling at the top of his lungs.
“I couldn’t ask for a better team,” he said, “and I’ve actually learned a few things by observing. Hopefully next week I might even get in a few reps in the championship game.”