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Throughout his middle school and high school years, Jaden Barnes loved playing football. As he grew, it became clear that he had the athleticism, drive, and maturity it takes to become a NCAA Division I athlete. Entering his junior year at Grafton High School—an extremely crucial year for recruitment for high school athletes—he dreamed of what the season would hold. That is, until the second game.
On September 11, 2015, the Clippers were playing at Poquoson. Jaden had a breakaway run down the sidelines and planted his foot to cut in, but someone’s helmet hit his ankle and he went down. “At first, my body was in shock, and I didn’t feel anything. As soon as I looked down and saw my ankle, though, I felt the worst pain I have ever experienced,” said Jaden. “As they loaded me up on the stretcher and took me to the ambulance, I just remember wondering if I would ever get to play high school football again, let alone go on to play college ball.” Jaden was taken to the closest hospital, and it was determined that he had a fractured fibula, dislocated ankle, and many torn ligaments.
“I decided to look for someone who was a specialist in foot and ankle injuries. Looking back now, I’m so thankful I did,” said his mother, Ms. Joanne Baldelli. “I’m convinced that taking my son to Dr. Maloof is why he is able to pursue his dream of playing college football today.”
Dr. Paul Maloof is the region’s only full-time foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon, and he has extensive training in trauma and complex sports injuries, having worked with many Division I and professional athletes during his fellowship at Duke University.
He performed surgery to realign the fractured fibula and implant hardware, which stabilized the joint as it healed. Four months later, Dr. Maloof performed a second surgery to remove some of the hardware. This allowed more natural movement to occur, which helped to re-strengthen and tighten up the ligaments that were torn.
Following surgery, Jaden completely dedicated himself to his recovery. “I did exactly what the physical therapist said, and then I did even more because I just wanted to recover as quickly as possible. Since I missed my entire junior year, I knew I only had one season left to show recruiters why I would be a good addition to their team.”
Dr. Maloof gave Jaden clearance to finish out the 2015-2016 basketball season at the end of January, just four months after his injury. That spring, he went to training camps all over the area. By the time he went to the Team USA Training camp in the summer of 2016, he felt 100% recovered. “He placed second out of 150 players in the 40-yard dash," said Joanne. "But he is a competitor and told me that second place meant he still had room to improve!”
In his senior season at GHS, Jaden stood out as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the region. On a Saturday in January 2017, he received a call from Trevor Andrews, defensive coordinator at College of William & Mary. Andrews said they were impressed with the potential Jaden showed during his senior season after returning from an injury and offered him a spot on the Tribe roster. Jaden made a commitment right there on the phone. “Playing football at William & Mary is a dream come true. This is what I had always hoped for, but after my injury, I wasn’t sure it would be possible. The opportunity to be a part of a great football program and a well-respected academic institution is something I will be forever grateful for, and it would not be possible without the precision and skill of Dr. Maloof and his team at Tidewater Orthopaedics.”