Clayton Valley of Concord linebacker has bounced back from a knee injury to become one of the state's top recruits.

A knee injury may have helped hinder postseason honors that may have come in 2002 for Clayton Valley High linebacker Joe Mortensen, but it didn't prevent him from being in on 125 tackles and gaining the confidence he'd be a major player in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2003.

Mortensen, a 6-2, 235-pounder, sprained the ACL ligament in his left knee on the last play of the last day of practice before the start of the 2002 season. He missed three games and played the next seven not exactly at 100 percent.

"I was lucky because I didn't have to get my knee cut, but it was hard because I was not as fast as I'd like to be," he said. "It definitely slowed me down."

Mortensen still earned All-Bay Valley Athletic League honors, but he wasn't on any other honors teams, although he felt with his size and continuing to strengthen himself from the knee injury that he'd be among the top recruits in the area by the spring.

The Stanford Nike Camp next became a goal for Mortensen. He circled the date and trained for it. He says what really helped him was using Strength Shoes.

"With the shoes, I was able to drop my 40 speed down to 4.68 seconds in about three months," Mortensen said. "Then I went out for track and did the 100, 4x100, shot put and discus. That dropped me down into the 4.5s."

The Nike Camp then took place and Mortensen showed he was more than ready. He measured 6-1, 235 pounds, tied for second in the bench with 33 reps, did 31.3 inches in the vertical and ran a 4.66 in the 40.

"I had very little interest from colleges before that day, but in May I must have gotten about 25 or 26 calls," Mortensen said.

A trip to Nebraska's camp followed where Mortensen again shined and the major power Cornhuskers even offered him a scholarship. If Mortensen was a secret, the secret was out.

Mortensen hopes to break the Clayton Valley school record of 165 tackles for a season currently held by Sam Williams, the third-round pick in the most recent NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Williams went to Fresno State and also was somewhat of a sleeper coming into his senior year at Clayton Valley. But Mortensen will apparently have much more of a selection of colleges who will offer him, including most of the Pac 10. Fresno State would be lucky to get this latest Clayton Valley player.

"Sam has told me about a lot of things," Mortensen said. "The big thing, he says, is speed. And we talk about grades and academics."

If Williams ever gets an ACL ligament sprain, maybe Mortensen should be the first person he calls. After all, if there's one person who knows how to come back strong from that particular injury, it's Joe Mortensen.

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