How Four Knee Surgeries Changed an Athlete’s Life for the Better
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“I told him I was done and I went in the locker room and I was just crying.” In 2018 Kamryn Babb was one of the nation’s best high school receivers. He had accepted a full scholarship to play at Ohio State and dreamed of one day playing in the NFL.
Will Dawson: "The hype was real, right?"
Kamryn Babb: "Yeah, it was real."
Will Dawson: "Sophomore, junior year is when you were getting offers from everybody in the country. But at that point too you had to be thinking about the future. ‘Alright, I’m good enough that maybe someday the NFL could be a real possibility.’ Tell me about that."
Kamryn Babb: "My whole identity really from a young age started to get wrapped up in being a football player. And so it was, ‘Okay, I'm gonna go to the NFL. That's going to be my job. I don't want to do anything else, but I just want to play football.’"
For Kam, the hype turned to heartbreak. In 2018, just one week before his high school season, he tore a ligament in his right knee and missed his final year.
“For a 17-year-old who again had his whole identity wrapped up in like, this is who I am. And without this I don't know, it was very hard.”
Nine months later, he still enrolled as a freshman wide receiver at Ohio State. His right knee was feeling great. Then the unexpected happened.
“I was doing really well and then I just put my foot in the ground and feel my left one give. So I'm out my whole freshman season. It was very humbling," recalled Kamryn.
The following season, in 2020, Kam tore his left knee…again.
“That's the breaking point. And so I remember telling some guys in the room, I was like, ‘Man, I'm done!’ I threw my helmet down, very frustrated, like ‘Why again and again and again, I'm putting all this work like 9 to 12 months of just putting not only my heart on the line, but my body, my knees?’”
Kamryn was no stranger to adversity. However, after his third knee surgery, he began questioning his role on the team. That is when he decided to pack up his bags and head home to Saint Louis. That is, until he had an unlikely encounter with an Uber driver.
“I'm done with it. And so I talked to Coach and I remember I was like, ‘I just want to go home, go home and figure this stuff out.’ I Uber to the airport and Darnell, he was my Uber. He had a Bible on the stand.”
Kamryn reluctantly engaged the driver in conversation. “I was in my own world frustrated, mad, probably like cursing up a storm. I just talking to whoever I was talking to. And so I'm telling him a little bit about myself. But then we pull up to the airport and he asked to pray. He said, ‘Man, I just really feel like Jesus, the Holy Spirit wants me to pray for you.’ And so we’re in this car and he’s like, ‘Man, can I reach back and touch your knees?’ I’m like man, that’s a little weird, but I’m like, ‘Yeah we can do it. We can do it.’ He reclined his chair back and put his hands on my knees and it was right when he touched my knees and he opened his mouth, like everything that he was saying was, like, spot on. Even the things that I didn't tell him was spot on. And it was at that moment it was like the Holy Spirit was truly speaking through him in a way that he could never out of his own strength. And so I just start weeping, I start crying and really just start shaking uncontrollably. And I just met this man five minutes ago, and I remember there was a sense of peace, and a sense of joy, and a sense of happiness, if you want to say in that moment, despite having just tore my ACL for the third time like a day ago, two days ago. And that is when I was like, ‘Man, I don't know what that was, but I need more of it.'"
Kam decided to stay in Ohio and the driver invited him to church that Sunday.
“I remember I just got convicted by the word of God (Pastor Brian, that goes there now). And I remember him just laying out the gospel for what it was. It took me 19 years to really hear like this gospel that changes hearts, the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword. Like it changed my heart.”
With a new heart, Kam chose to stay with the Buckeyes where he began leading team bible studies. In 2022 after a fourth knee surgery, Kam fought his way back again and was named team captain. On November 12, 2022, he made his first collegiate catch: a touchdown.
“Right when I turned my head I just see C.J. just rolling out and I just wait for him and I put my hands out and it was kind of like black. Like I don’t even really remember it. I just remember getting right there and so I get on my knees, look up and that was my worship man. I just thanked Him. I was thanking Him for all the moments where it was dark and I didn’t think I could keep going. And obviously He’s using me but this is His story.”
Today Kam is a speaker and volunteers with Man Up and Go, an organization that serves the fatherless. While his knees will keep him from playing in the NFL, Kam is keeping it all in perspective.
“If you go back, you look five years ago or in 2019, before I came to that Uber, you wouldn't recognize the man that you see today. And it's all because of the Holy Spirit and it all points to Jesus. And that’s my goal. And so whether it's a church or business, young kids, whoever I can talk to, to tell them about the past five years, my whole life, the past 23 years of my life and showing them how Jesus has maneuvered and worked in amazing ways, that's my goal. But it’s all to bring them to the knowledge of how His grace truly is. By the grace of God, He picked me up when I wasn't looking for Him, I wasn't thinking about Him. And again, when I thought that I knew who Jesus Christ was, He showed me that I had no clue and He just invited me into His love."
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