North Carolina pledge Chazz Surratt returned to Chapel Hill on Monday to allow UNC doctors to formally provide a second opinion on his throwing arm.
“They looked at my elbow and said I didn’t need surgery or anything like that – that was good,” Surratt said. “And then they were just telling me about the rehab process. They said that it will make a full recovery without surgery.”
Surratt, a 6-foot-3, 197-pound quarterback, dislocated his left elbow early in Denver (N.C.) East Lincoln’s second round win over Wilkes Central (N.C.) a couple weeks back. OrthoCarolina originally told Surratt that the injury would require surgery.
“I’m relieved,” Surratt said. “I didn’t want to have to go through surgery if I didn’t have to.”
Even without surgery, Surratt will be shelved for four months, which ends his high school football career two weeks shy of the NCHSAA 2AA Championship and forces him to miss his entire senior basketball season.
It was his senior basketball season that kept Surratt from enrolling early at UNC. Thus, the silver lining: he will now enroll at UNC in January, which will allow him to recover under the Tar Heels’ medical staff.
During Monday’s evaluation, the medical staff laid out a 16-week recovery program.
“I’ll probably start throwing soft toss in month three,” Surratt said. “I don’t know about football [activities], but I should be up to speed in about four to five months.”
That means Surratt’s arm will be less than 100-percent for much – if not all – of spring practice.
After meeting with the medical staff, Surratt and his family sat down with Joe Haydon, UNC’s Director of Football Operations. Haydon went over the paperwork required for Surratt’s early enrollment.
“The only thing I need is my English test,” Surratt said. “I’ll have to ask the state to take the test early. But, all my credits and stuff are good. All I have to do is fill out some paperwork and turn in my application to UNC. I have most of it done already.”
Before heading back home, Surratt spoke briefly with Larry Fedora and quarterback coach Keith Heckendorf.
Mentally, Surratt’s new path is a mixed bag.
“It’s tough right now,” Surratt said. “I definitely wanted to play – try to win the state championship in football and then win it in basketball, but also finish playing with my teammates and friends. It’s hard, but I have to look at the positive. I’ll be able to learn [UNC’s] system quicker if I go in in January and get the best rehab. Maybe it will be a good thing that I get to enroll in January.”
Surratt's high school football career ended on Friday and it didn't end quietly. When he left the Wilkes Central game, he was eight yards shy of the state record for career yards of total offense. Although he didn’t start, he suited up for Friday’s game against East Burke (N.C.) with a brace on his left elbow and padding enclosing that entire arm. That meant he would need to rely on his right (non-dominant) arm to achieve the record.
“We practiced it during the week and I was throwing some shovel passes and some screen plays [with my right arm],” Surratt said. “The biggest thing was catching the snap with one hand. That was the hardest thing – getting a good snap and catching and getting it off in time before there was pressure. I worked a lot on that, because I can throw about 25 yards with my right hand.”
Surratt entered Friday's game on the third play of the second half. However, his first attempt only made the objective more onerous – it went for a six-yard loss. He didn’t return to the field until the fourth quarter where he completed four consecutive passes for 22 yards – easily breaking the record.
“It was a pretty big deal,” Surratt said. “I’ve had a lot of great teammates that have helped me out. It was a good end to my career. And it was a big deal to be able to break it at home. It was special to me being that it was Chris Leak’s record – he’s one of the greatest to ever come through North Carolina at quarterback.”
With the record set, East Lincoln marches onto the semfinals on Friday against top seeded Monroe (N.C.) without Surratt.
“It definitely hurts,” Surratt said. “I’ve never sat out in any game in my whole career. Usually if I’m hurt, I’m still playing – but it hasn’t been to this level. It’s tough not going to be able to help my team.”
Although it won’t be on the field, Surratt will still contribute to East Lincoln’s attempt to repeat as champions. Surratt, who knows the offense as well as anybody, will join his father as a coach.
“I’ve been looking over the game plan with the coaches just like a coach,” Surratt said. “But my biggest thing is working with the freshman quarterback that we have in place right now. I’m making sure he understands everything and supporting him by giving him confidence. I pretty much know the offense like the back of my hand, so I’ll be able to help with whatever is needed from the sidelines.”