Dallas Walton had been through it before. Twice before, actually. If anyone has ever been perfectly suited to face the trials that come with rebounding from a torn ACL, it's Walton.
Walton understood this as well. He'd done it before. Whether he had it in his heart to do it again was another question altogether.
On Oct. 16 the 7-foot Walton suffered a torn ACL in his right knee that ended his 2018-19 season with the Colorado men's basketball team before it began. Walton, a redshirt sophomore, suffered the same injury twice in his left knee at Arvada West High School. And so the road to recovery is a familiar one. But as some dark and depressing thoughts set in during the immediate aftermath of his latest injury, Walton entertained some very real ideas about walking away from the game.
"Right after it happened, I was like 'I don't know if I want to keep on playing anymore,'" Walton said. "Anyone that has torn their ACL knows it's a very unpleasant feeling. And one I just did not want to repeat again. But after that week and a half I talked to some people and changed my mindset. Just do everything right, control what you can control and you can continue to do what you love to do.
"I have a lot more resources that are available to me this time around than I did in high school. I know what to do. I've been through this process and I can attack it."
Walton suffered the first tear of his left ACL while he was a sophomore in high school and re-tore it about a year later, actually re-injuring it while going through one of his final tests to be cleared from the original injury.
Though his strength wasn't up to the equivalency of his height, Walton was able to put in a full senior year at Arvada West and signed with the Buffs shortly after that senior season ended in the spring of 2016.
Walton redshirted as a true freshman during the 2016-17 season and, following an early season-ending injury to then-senior forward Tory Miller-Stewart last year, Walton responded when the door was opened for a bigger role. He started 25 games and led the Buffs with 34 blocked shots, and was more than ready to build on those numbers this season.
He endured toe surgery in the spring to correct a minor issue on the same right leg he injured in October. Walton believes the twin setbacks simply were an unfortunate coincidence, and strength and conditioning coach Steve Englehart confirmed Walton was setting new career-highs in the weight room at the time he tore his ACL.
"Any ACL or season-ending injury obviously is disheartening for any player. But for Dallas I noticed it even more so because of the two others he's been through," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "I think it was two weeks before I saw him smile and laugh again. I understand. He knows what he's facing and what's ahead of him. I expect him to be back full. Surgery went well, doctors said everything looked good. We'll just wait and see."
Walton endured surgery about a week after incurring the injury. Now roughly two months removed from the procedure and fully on board with a comeback, the Colorado native has begun very light weight exercises on his leg along with elementary jumping drills. He knows the road ahead well. Now Walton is ready to attack it.
"Talking to my coaches, and also the support of the community and my parents, it kind of got me motivated," Walton said. "This is not the end of my story, because I still have a big love for basketball, a big love for the university and this team. I can make a comeback."
Though he already took a redshirt season, Walton said he plans to petition the NCAA for a sixth season of eligibility.