April 16, 2014 Updated: April 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm
This wasn't the signing day Palmer senior Sam Horning had always dreamed about growing up. Then, it wasn't a day he thought would ever come.
Two years removed from shattering his leg, and not even a year since major-shoulder surgery, two-sport athlete Horning continued on a much different journey than he'd ever envisioned and signed to play lacrosse at Division-II Wheeling Jesuit (W.Va.) University on Wednesday afternoon.
"It hasn't always been easy, but it was a great moment today," said Horning, who followed his signing with three goals in a 10-4 win over Legend. "It's been a journey for sure."
That's one thing to call it. Coming into his sophomore season, Horning was one of the top lacrosse players in the state. Gifted with lightning-quick speed and a shot that turned even the top goalies in the state into spectators, he was thought to be a potential Division-I lacrosse player.
That was his dream.
"He was told that and was even looked at by some bigger schools (at camps) since he was about 10," his mom, Angie, said.
In the first lacrosse game of his sophomore season, however, Horning shattered his fibula and tibia.
His dream nearly went with it.
"It was heartbreaking," said Angie, who watched her son scream in pain after his leg broke in March 2012 during a game against hosting Windsor. "In that ambulance ride from the field he looked at me and said, 'Well, it's over. I'll never have a shot at playing in college now.'"
It certainly looked that way for a while.
Horning spent the next two years rehabbing his leg. Tears, pain, sweat were all a nightly theme at the Horning household.
So were doubts. In fact, his parents even sanctioned a "pity day" one day following the incident. It was a day he could express frustrations and get mad about what had happened. But when that day ended, it was back to work.
"We've gone through a lot in the past handful of years," said Sam's first coach in hockey and lacrosse, his father, Greg, who was diagnosed with leukemia in early 2009 before a quick remission that's left him cancer-free for five years. "When Sam broke his leg, it was hard. But there's worse things out there. There are tough things in life, so what are you going to do? You don't give up."
Sam listened. He played through pain his junior season and led the Terrors in goals in hockey and lacrosse. Then in his senior year, despite having shoulder surgery in June, he came out stronger. He finished third in goals in the state in hockey and is leading the 6-2 Terrors with 20 goals in lacrosse.
"You know, you don't always go down the path you think you will," Angie said. "And Sam didn't. But if you don't give up, and keep working, you can do incredible things. I think that's what Sam showed."