Sometimes a train simply gets thrown off the tracks. One minute someone is going strong and the next it is over. Mount View High School football wide receiver Erick Nealley is an example of that.

In the fall, Nealley compiled 268 receiving yards, scored five touchdowns and averaged 18 yards per catch. He finished as the sixth top receiver in the Little Ten Conference Class C division.

Not bad considering Nealley only played seven quarters of football. In the second game of the year, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscal cruciate ligament in his knee and could not finish the campaign.

“When I played I felt good,” said the Mustang senior, adding he felted he did well this season. “I had big-time expectations for myself this year. I wanted to do so good and then this happened to my knee and then it just [all went] poof.”

Nealley said. though. he knew about the injury initially before it worsened. He admitted he was, at first, too stubborn and at the early signs of the injury did not allow time for his knee to heal.

About the third day of preseason practice, Nealley jumped for a pass, kicked his leg out and his knee popped. He kept playing and ended up twisting his leg. Then he stretched it out and tried to follow his trainer’s advice.

However, his leg took the final blow when, after a scoring touchdown in an early-season game, he chest-bumped a teammate and, in the aftermath, injured his ACL. He said at that time he knew it was likely torn.

“I didn’t go to the doctor, I just put ice on it and played against Old Town and had probably the best game of this year,” he said. He had three touchdowns against the Coyotes.

Then, in a practice after that game, he made a cut and his knee gave out. He finally had to go to the doctor. At the appointment, the doctor was upset at the teenager for not coming to his office sooner and Nealley learned he was out for the season with an injured ACL and MCL.

He didn’t play after that; he was out for the season, partly because he didn’t get a proper brace, a device that might have allowed him to continue playing.

“I didn’t want to believe I had something wrong with my knee,” he said, explaining why he didn’t get the brace when he should have. “That’s always me. I’m a very stubborn person. When it comes to injuries I just want to play, play through it.”

Nealley said he had high expectations for his final high school football season and the injury took them away.

“It ruined it because I love football,” he said. “I had the biggest expectations for myself this year, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to do better than I did last year and [the injury] happened.”

Last year, as a junior split end, Nealley was one of the top receivers for Mount View. He amased 15 passes for 329 yards and seven touchdowns, despite a nagging quadriceps injury that hampered him for much of the campaign. Nealley also was a solid defensive back for the Mustangs, has excellent vertical jumping ability and strong speed. Nealley also was a second-team all-conference at split end.

“He is the best receiver I have ever seen and he’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen,” said Mustang coach Jack Brady, who called Nealley “a Randy Moss-type player.”

“He’s a legitimate [Division I college] player,” the coach said. “He is just an amazing athlete.”

Nealley’s dedication to football certainly does not hurt his ability. His favorite part about the sport is “catching the football,” he said. “That’s what I love to do, that’s what I know how to do the best. I love it.”

“I want that ball,” he said. “That’s my main thing, when that ball is coming my way it’s mine. I don’t want that defender to get it and I‘ll go up and do anything to get it.”

He wanted to play so badly it tore him apart, literally: physically and mentally. Watching his team play without him was not easy. “I was going crazy, just wanting to be out there to help my team. It was killing me hardcore,” he said.

However, Nealley said he would not make the same decisions if the same injury happened again. He would have taken better care of the injury.

“The second I did it, the first time I ever did it, I would have just taken at least a couple days off and let it heal instead of playing on it and being stubborn and not listening to anybody. That just ruined me,” he said.

Now, Nealley has been fitted for a proper brace and is on the Mustang basketball team so things are looking up. He is scheduled for surgery after the basketball season and hopes to be healthy enough to get accepted to a good college and play football.

The University of Maine in Orono is his top choice, but he is also looking at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., which wants to recruit him for football, or Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.

Despite the injury, he might have a chance to continue to play. Coach Brady said Nealley has competitive talent, which could serve him well at the next level.

So perhaps there is a way the train can find its way back on track.

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.