There was a familiar face in the Minnesota Vikings locker room Wednesday, as offensive tackle Phil Loadholt addressed the media after being the named the team’s 2015 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
One player from each NFL team is honored for exemplifying commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Each recipient is voted on by his teammates who recognize a player’s efforts on and off the field, as well as their ability to overcome adversity, whether personal or professional. The award is named after Ed Block, the longtime athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts. Every March the winners travel to Baltimore for an annual gala and visit the Courage House at St. Vincent’s Center, a facility that specializes in working with abused children.
Loadholt was chosen for his fit with the criteria for selection. He is a respected team leader who is active in charitable efforts in the Twin Cities community and has faced adversity on the field, having been knocked out of the last two seasons – with a pectoral muscle tear last November and being lost for the 2015 season in the preseason with a torn Achilles.
Loadholt said he’s humbled by the selection from his teammates and, after learning what the Ed Block Courage Award stands for, was proud to be the 2015 recipient.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Loadholt said. “Thanks to my teammates, who voted for me for that. I’m happy to be involved with such a great award, such a prestigious award around the league. Just learning about Ed Block over the last couple of days, someone who did a lot to help kids with needs, his program today still continues to do so. I’m looking forward to going out to the event.
“I’ve had a chance to speak to a couple of the guys who have won the award before – Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway,” he added. “I’m glad to join those two – Shaun Hill also won it – it’s a great honor, I’m thankful for my teammates for it and I’m looking forward to the event in March.”
It’s an honor most players don’t want to receive. It often means that a player has gone through a career setback, typically the result of a significant injury. But it also shows the respect that a player’s teammates have for the recipient, both in leadership and commitment to fighting his way back on the field.
“It means you had to go through a lot of adversity for sure,” Loadholt said. “But I think it also speaks to how you deal with adversity. I think everyone kind of realizes the work I’m putting in – my teammates do – and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”
The recovery process for Loadholt has been a long one. He is often isolated from his teammates and working with the training and medical staffs instead of his coaches.
After spending months rehabilitating from his 2014 pectoral injury, it took some time for Loadholt to come to grips with the fact that his 2015 season was finished before it could begin.
“I had to wrap my mind around the fact that I wasn’t going to play this season,” Loadholt said. “Working with our training staff – which does a great job, one of the best in the league – I’m staying positive and taking little steps at a time. I’m out of the boot now walking around and feeling good.”
The process of coming back has been arduous for Loadholt. He needed to do specialized rehab for his pectoral injury and was all smiles when training camp began in July. He had spent almost six months working on the healing process, only to have a separate fluke injury rob him of another season.
Was it worse the second time around?
“Definitely,” Loadholt said. “I did work hard to come back from the pec. I was feeling good going into the season. To have this happen was a shock, but it’s part of the game. The injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent, so I’ve just got to deal with it, do what I can with the rehab, work with our staff and get ready.”
Having voted for other teammates in the past, Loadholt was aware of what the honor means to players who have received it in the past and he is encouraged that so many of them have made a full recovery and gone on to have successful returns from their setbacks.
The history of players returning from injuries that could have been career-threatening is heartening for a player like Loadholt. He has seen other recipients of Ed Block Courage Award display one of the inherit tenets of the award itself, the ability to get back up after being knocked down.
Loadholt has seen teammates make the sacrifice needed to come all the way back, which makes this award even more special.
“It means a lot,” Loadholt said. “I was there to vote for Adrian and for other teammates. It means a lot just because I know the work that those guys put in. I know how hard they worked to come back and I see them being successful now. It gives me the confidence knowing that I can do the same.”