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September 21, 2009Going into his senior season Huldon Tharp was being recruited by college programs all over the country. From Miami to Kansas to Stanford, Tharp was certain to have a lot of college coaches make their way to Mulvane to see the star linebacker.
Then everything changed.
In June before his senior year Tharp was attending the Pittsburgh State team football camp when he suffered an injury. At the time nobody knew what the extent was.
"I remember getting the phone call," said Chad Tharp, Huldon's father. "All I knew at the time is he was injured and we didn't know what it was."
The news came soon after a visit to the doctor that Tharp suffered a torn ACL and it would likely cause him to miss his senior year. Not only was it a blow to Tharp's high school career but a major concern to how college recruiters would handle the news.
"They actually thought it could have been torn before the camp," Chad said. "It was three-quarters torn and there wasn't any swelling of the tendons. Obviously one of biggest worries is what schools would do. It is scary as a parent to see kids go through something like this."
Tharp decided to tackle the injury head on and contact all of the schools recruiting him immediately. He wanted to make sure the recruiters knew what happened and be up front with them.
"I think that helped him with recruiting," Chad said. "I felt some of the coaches believed he did the honorable thing."
The week before the Jayhawks were set to kickoff the 2008 season Tharp decided he was ready to make his college decision. He called Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, Brandon Blaney, head coach Mark Mangino, and committed to the Jayhawks.
It was a long road to Lawrence for Tharp. The rehab and workouts were intense as he tried to recover. Chad remembers the days Tharp played X-Box in his basement with friends instead of the football field.
At this time last year Tharp couldn't imagine recording a personal best 10 tackles against Duke. His main focus was getting his knee back to playing shape to be ready for Kansas.
"I was hoping for that but quite honestly in all reality I didn't think so," Tharp said referring to playing as a true freshman. "But I feel pretty good now and I'm 100 percent."
Tharp impressed his teammates and coaches when he arrived at Kansas. Bill Miller, the linebackers coach told Jayhawk Slant during media day that Tharp might have been biggest surprise of fall camp. Cornerback Chris Harris remembers Tharp coming right into the program and displaying his ability to work hard.
"His work ethic is what has stood out to me," Harris said. "Ever since he got here he was up front in line in everything. In the early parts of conditioning he was always working hard. I heard some of our weight room coaches talk about how hard he works. I like his work ethic so far from what I've seen and that will take him a long way."
Patience was the key for Tharp. He was always ahead of schedule during his rehab but he wanted quicker results. He had an option of trying to come back for the last few games of his senior season but decided to wait for the future.
This season Tharp has 15 tackles and is part of a young linebacking crew that has played better each week. Once Tharp was back to full strength he adjusted well to the speed of playing division one football.
"The mental side of the game and learning the whole defense has been the toughest thing," he said. "In high school you have a few base calls and you can play every offense you face the same way. Up here there are different calls for certain plays and just so much more to learn."
It isn't often a high school senior suffers a major injury, recovers, and then finds success in their first year on the BCS level. Chad Tharp never counted his son out.
"He's a tough kid and he's never given up," Chad said.