What Zach Deitchman wanted for his special 16th birthday couldn’t be put on a credit card.
While his female Mountain Pointe classmates were in a dither about Sweet 16 birthday parties and his male friends were thinking about getting driver’s licenses, Deitchman had more important things on his mind.
“All I wanted for my birthday was to be able to walk,” the Pride junior said. “That was the only gift I wanted.”
After a successful freshman season in football and track Deitchman’s sophomore season was a nightmare.
In his third game of his sophomore year in mid-September of 2008 he was blocked from behind. The impact completely tore the anterior cruciate ligament, the medial collateral ligament, injured the meniscus and bruised the bone in his left knee.
“Because the meniscus had jammed we knew there was a chance that I wouldn’t be able to straighten my leg out again and that meant I wouldn’t be able to walk right,” Deitchman explained. “And they didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again.”
His goal was to walk by Nov. 22, his 16th birthday.
“That was my goal and that was the day I started walking again,” he said.
Strenuous and sometimes painful physical therapy helped to straighten his leg again.
“Physical therapy was hard,” Deitchman added, “not so much physically, but mentally because we started out with the little things.”
When the junior varsity was called up to participate in the 2008 Ahwatukee Bowl game against Desert Vista Deitchman watched from the grandstands in a wheelchair.
“That might have been the hardest part, just watching,” he said.
Football season was over but Deitchman had started looking toward the spring track season, where had run the 100-, 200- and 400-yard dashes, as well as the 4x100 relay.
“I couldn’t do anything through Christmas, but I started running in January,” he said. “In track, pushing off was hard and, at first, my doctor didn’t want me running on the curves so I just did the 100 (yard dash).”
Deitchman participated in some summer football drills and was back in pads this fall.
“Having a uniform on again, even if I was on the scout team and making the starters sweat was good enough,” he continued.
Football, Deitchman admits, is a world apart from running a football into a line.
“Once football season came around it was a whole different thing from track because I hard to start cutting and sacrifice my body,” he said. “But once I did it I thought, 'Hey, this is all right,’ and I wasn’t worried after that.”
Deitchman played sparingly on the varsity early this season, partly because he was playing behind seniors De’Andre Currie and Davon Jones, who have accounted for 1,729 yards on the ground and 28 touchdowns this season.
But his big break came in the game against Casa Grande when he ran four times for 100 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown.
“That was pretty emotional, after being out a year, to turn around afterwards and see all the guys running toward me,” Deitchman recalled. “That was a big deal to realize that it really happened.”
Deitchman didn’t come out of nowhere or show up over night.
Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan acknowledged that Deitchman is faster the Currie or Jones in the 40-yard dash, but is aware that he is playing behind those two in the backfield.
Vaughan has let Deitchman get his legs back by playing some weeks on the junior varsity.
“I’m not like Dada (Jones), where I can run over people,” Deitchman said, “But the guys on our line are huge at knocking over people and I love running behind them. Even our scout team line is insane.”
Earlier this month Deitchman’s struggles were recognized when he was named KPNX-TV (channel 12) Comeback Player of the Week.
The Pride are 6-0 this season and getting close to a 5A-I playoff spot.
The second round of playoffs are Nov. 20, two days before Deitchman’s birthday, by that time he may have another wish list for himself and the Pride in mind.