J.T. Haddan, a 2008 Moffat County High School graduate, refuses to be stopped. Despite two injuries to his right knee, Haddan earned a starting spot on the Thunderwolves football team at Colorado State University at Pueblo.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

J.T. Haddan, a 2008 Moffat County High School graduate, refuses to be stopped. Despite two injuries to his right knee, Haddan earned a starting spot on the Thunderwolves football team at Colorado State University at Pueblo.

MCHS graduate chugging away on football scholarship at CSU Pueblo

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Scholarship athletes of 2008

This story about J.T. Haddan is the last installment of a series run in the Craig Daily Press catching up with the Moffat County High School scholarship athletes of 2008.

• Angie Charchalis, Colorado School of Mines - story printed Dec. 26

• Kelsey Conci, University of Wyoming - story printed Dec. 29

• Caitlin Conci, University of North Dakota - story printed Dec. 9

• Markie Workman, Adams State College/Colorado Northwestern Community College - story printed Dec.30

• Cassie Rogers, Hope International University - story printed Jan. 2

• Chris Winder, Odessa College - story printed Jan.3

• Meghan Innes, Carroll College - story printed Jan.7

Haddan, who attends Colorado State University at Pueblo, and the athletes listed above, received eight of a school record nine athletic scholarships last year. Amy Dilldine, the ninth, is no longer playing volleyball at CNCC.

Three games into the 2007 high school football season, J.T. "the Diesel" Haddan went down with an injury.

There he lay, Moffat County High School's Mr. Everything athlete, on the ground of Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction.

His right knee was shredded - Haddan tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), his Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) and his Meniscus.

It was an athlete's nightmare of all nightmares.

Flashing through his mind went his dream of playing college football.

Was something he had always wanted to do now gone with one play?

Would there be no more bullying toward the end zone, catching screen passes and barreling through defenders in short yardage?

His body said no, but his heart and mind wouldn't let him quit.

Months of strenuous rehabilitation followed, and midway through the 2007-08 boys basketball season, Haddan returned to Bulldogs athletics to a warm standing ovation by the Moffat County fans.

By early summer, Haddan was re-writing the MCHS record books in shot put and discus for the track and field team, on his way to a second-place state finish in his chosen discipline.

All that was great, but Haddan is a football player.

"I've always just loved football," he said. "It's always been my favorite sport, and I've always dreamt of playing college ball. I knew I was going to play somewhere.

"I wasn't going to let (the injury) stop me."

He didn't, and somebody at Colorado State University at Pueblo must have read his mind.

On Feb. 7, 2008, Haddan signed a national letter of intent to don the pads for the Thunderwolves.

August 2008, off he went, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

He has changed positions - the former running back/linebacker now is a tight end - but his love for the game is stronger than ever.

But with college football comes hard work.

Haddan couldn't rely solely on his high school success.

He had gone from a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond.

"The first practice was called 'midnight madness,'" Haddan said. "We went out on the field at midnight, and they pretty much made you puke."

Haddan said he didn't puke - not big, bad J.T. - but others on his team did.

"I thought I was in good condition when I got there," he said, laughing. "That changed quick."

The biggest difference, Haddan said, from high school to college football is, he doesn't touch the ball like he used to.

As a blocking tight end, Haddan's number wasn't called all year. He didn't touch the football once.

"That doesn't bother me," he said. "It's fine with me, because I love blocking. It's just you and the other guy, and the best man wins."

Haddan needed four games to earn the starting role as a freshman for the first-year Thunderwolves (4-6 overall, 4-4 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.)

He was cruising along, living the dream, when an all-too familiar nightmare struck again.

His right knee popped -again.

"I got hurt in the seventh game," Haddan said. "I couldn't play the last two."

It was the same knee, but not as severe.

"They initially thought it was going to be as bad," he said. "But it wasn't. I ended up just tearing my lateral and medial meniscuses, and there was a lot of scar tissue from before."

Like his injury sustained in Grand Junction, his second also occurred at the game's onset.

But unlike that day against Palisade when Haddan was hauled off the field on a stretcher, this time would be different.

"It was the first drive of the game," he said, "and I went back to the huddle and finished out the game.

"I couldn't walk the next day."

So did he see everything flash before his eyes again when he went down?

"I did," he said, "for about a second. I'm not letting that happen again."

He since has undergone surgery to repair the damage and remove scar tissue from the previous injury, and he is ready to don the pads again in the fall.

But he'll have to wait.

He can't just run out and shoot some hoops or break a few track records like the old days.

Now, Haddan must buckle down with a few books - he earned a 3.7 GPA his first semester - and wait for the snow to melt.

He's fine with it. After all, he's a college football player now.

"I love it," Haddan said. "I'm accomplishing what I set my mind on."

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