Maple Grove football standout Aiden McMahon planted to make a cut while covering a kickoff.
His body kept going. His right knee did not.
"He went down and grabbed his knee," Crimson coach Matt Lombardi said. "And he's not a kid to grab his knee."
McMahon is also not a kid to quit, even as doctors projected the torn ligaments would render him unable to compete the rest of his senior year.
Injured on Oct. 8, McMahon missed a few days for surgery, then became a fixture at football practices, film sessions and games. The senior linebacker, who led the team in tackles before getting hurt, helped guide Maple Grove throughout the final seven weeks of a season — all the way to its first Prep Bowl appearance.
He remained active within the Crimson hockey program, which reached its first state tournament championship game. The defenseman offered insight and encouragement from the bench.
Staying active within those two sports eased his rehabilitation regimen and helped McMahon turn a tenuous senior season into a triumphant comeback tale.
He returned to action May 6, taking the mound for Maple Grove's baseball team. About six weeks later, he pitched in the Crimson's state tournament quarterfinal victory.
Remarkable perseverance earned McMahon the Star Tribune's Courage in Competition award.
"They put boundaries on him, and he said, 'I'm still going forward,'" Lombardi said. "Until the day I die or get fired from coaching, I will use him as an example. He embodies everything we value about sports."
McMahon found mutualism in his roles within the football and hockey programs. He gave of himself and received the support he considered essential to the healing process.
"It was a lot easier being around my coaches and teammates," McMahon said. "I'm so grateful for everything given to me by all the people around me."
A team-first young man, McMahon took pity on himself only once. His football teammates had left the school's weight room to board buses headed to U.S. Bank Stadium and the Class 6A semifinal against Eden Prairie.
"I sat and reflected and then I broke down," McMahon said. "Lombo saw me and came over to tell me how I was still a big part of the team."
The moment provided an emotional bookend to his first baseball game, when he could barely contain himself as he entered the game to pitch. Maple Grove sat tied 3-3 with Little Falls after four innings when McMahon took the ball.
He threw a few innings with no issues and assured coach Jeff Peterson he could continue. The game went to extra innings, and McMahon earned the victory with five innings pitched, six strikeouts, two hits and no runs allowed.
After missing two state tournaments, McMahon was the starting pitcher in a Class 4A quarterfinal at CHS Field in St. Paul. The Crimson beat St. Louis Park 5-2, and McMahon threw 4⅓ innings, allowed four hits and two runs and fanned six.
This fall, he plans to resume his football career at St. John's. He's considering baseball, too.
"He's a born winner as an athlete, a person and a student," Peterson said. "You tell him no and he'll prove you wrong."