Football recruit LaValle grateful for quick recovery, ASU loyalty
LOS ANGELES — When Christian Lavalle entered the first round of the 2017 CIF Division I playoffs against Servite High School in early November, the Mission Viejo High School linebacker had only one Power Five conference offer and it was from then-ASU coach Todd Graham.
Early in the first quarter, Lavalle felt a pop in his foot and immediately knew something was wrong.
It was. Lavalle had suffered a torn Lisfranc ligament, an injury with an estimated recovery time of about 10 months. Soon, doubts about his future with ASU football set in because of the seriousness of his injury and the December hiring of coach Herm Edwards.
“The coaches may think I am not going to be as good as I was before,” Lavalle said. “Maybe, and all these ‘what ifs’ start going through your head.”
Lavalle recovered in half the time with the help of an orthopedic specialist in Cleveland and Edwards honored the commitment.
It helped that ASU linebacker coach Antonio Pierce was familiar with LaValle. Pierce was the coach of Long Beach Poly High School and coached against Mission Viejo during Lavalle’s junior and senior years before becoming a part of ASU’s coaching staff.
“I was really lucky. They came in and watched my film and they were like, ‘Yeah, we still want this guy.’ I played against Antonio Pierce, the linebacker coach… He knows me, he knows who is going to get. He’s a big supporter of mine,” Lavalle said.
And LaValle must have made a strong impression when he finished the playoff game on one leg as Mission Viejo grinded out a 38-36 victory over Servite with a movie-like effort by Lavalle.
“I was not sure what it was so I was just going to keep playing through it. The pain just kept getting worse,” Lavalle said. He played the remainder of the game on one leg.
Lavalle said he was hopping back and forth to the huddle on one foot throughout the remainder of the game against Servite. “It was definitely one of the hardest things to do was to play through that, but I got it done and got the win,” Lavalle said.
After the game was over, Lavalle realized that he had played his last high school football game.
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Former Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said he had no doubt that Lavalle possessed the right attitude to overcome such obstacles.
“He will be the guy who’s going to be the fastest guy to come back from things like that (injury) because of his attitude, and his work ethic,” Johnson said.
Johnson was correct. Lavalle bounced back from his injury and was cleared to play in early May. He recovered in five months.
Before his injury, Lavalle was a successful three-star player and one of the top 100 players in California, according to 247 Sports. Lavalle averaged 100 tackles each of his three seasons at Mission Viejo and is a successful two-sport athlete. He is his school’s only CIF discus state champion.
“I mean obviously he’s fast, he can move around a lot and he’s aggressive,” Mission Viejo junior quarterback Joey Yellen said about Lavalle’s physical abilities on the football field.
Although Lavalle’s physical presence on the field was missed, he made up for it by being equally as engaged with his teammates throughout the 2017 CIF section playoffs.
“Ultimately, he kept inspiring us and kept being that leader. He was always in the huddles, and he was always locked in helping out the new guys at linebacker,” Mission Viejo senior offensive tackle and Notre Dame commitment Jarrett Patterson said. “He really helped us to continue our playoff push.”
However, Mission Viejo was eliminated in the Division I CIF section semifinal to eventual Division I-A state champions Mater Dei. LaValle will be gray-shirting (enrolling in the winter term) this season. Lavalle signed the offer on the NCAA’s first-ever early signing day on Dec. 20, 2017.
“Every time I went (to the ASU campus) I knew it was just the place I wanted to be,” LaValle said. “It’s a place where I knew I could be there for five years.”