Winning a state championship is sweet. However, the win is especially powerful after overcoming adversity. Payton Hochhalter, a junior at Jamestown High School and starting quarterback for the Blue Jay football team, took a hit early in the second quarter of the team’s Sept. 17 game against Watford City High School. The tackle broke his collarbone threatening to sideline his season.
“With each breath, I could feel bone touching other bones,” he said. “It felt really weird.”
Hochhalter didn’t sleep the entire four-hour ride home.
He used that time to confide in a fellow athlete who’d experienced a similar injury.
“The pain on the field was one thing. In my head I kept wondering if I was done for the year,” Hochhalter said. “That was scary.”
Though the family passed several care facilities, they waited until they got home and scheduled visits with the JRMC Orthopedics team. Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Timothy Volk operated on Payton the next day.
DR. VOLK FOR THE WIN
“We know Pat Walter (PA-C) and we know other students who had great care at JRMC. We absolutely wanted to go there,” said Payton’s mom, Jan Hochhalter. “Dr. Volk operated on Payton the next day – a Saturday. I’m confident that the quick surgery contributed to Payton’s healing time.”
“Quick” is an understatement. Payton returned to the field in six weeks, thus, surprising his medical team.
“Payton was motivated to heal quickly,” Dr. Volk said with a smile. “He did everything he could to get back in the game.”
That included things such as massage therapy, a diet rich in calcium and even guided meditation.
Payton’s father, Marty Hochhalter, is certified as a Premier Mindset Coach. He supported the quarterback through the mental aspects of healing. Each night for instance, Payton would listen to audio recordings and visualize bone healing and fibers re-connecting.
“Whatever people were suggesting, whatever we read, we did it,” Jan said.
Athleticism comes naturally for the teen. He’s the youngest of four siblings – all athletes themselves – so he’s conditioned for competition since birth. Both Jan and Marty coach or used to coach, so Payton spent summers traveling and participating in sporting events across the Midwest. The 16-year-old learned many things in his youth, but quitting wasn’t one of them.
“People don’t know yet how athletic of a young man Payton is,” said Head Football Coach Bill Nelson. “Everything that he was doing helped – he came back stronger mentally and physically. Payton was determined. He had it in his head that he was going to play this season.”
And he did. Nelson said Payton’s return was the “giddy up” the team needed.
“The team knows that we’re better when we’re all together,” Nelson said.
(Video Credit: Courtesy of the Hochhalter family)
BACK IN THE GAME
Payton played – and the team won – both state playoff games and as Jamestown already knows, the North Dakota 11A high school football championship Nov. 12 in Fargo.
His orthopedics team was watching – with bated breaths.
“Every hit he took made us nervous,” Dr. Volk said. “However, it’s always fun to be on the sidelines, cheering on the Blue Jays, no matter the sport and no matter how many state championships they win.”
Love, Walter and Dr. Volk all live and work in Jamestown. Love even grew up here and graduated from Jamestown High School. They attend games on behalf of JRMC and also, as individual fans.
“I think knowing the ortho team was there made Payton feel better,” Jan said. “I know it made me feel better.”
Payton credits his fellow Blue Jays for his rapid recovery too. For example, his line blocked harder, staving off the defensive rush, he said. Even the wide receivers ran tighter, more efficient routes.
“They protected me,” he said. “They knew I could get hurt again.”
His father agreed.
“They rallied around him,” Marty said. “It was inspirational to see.”
Today, Payton said he feels like he has more “zip.” He is in the middle of basketball season and though he’s still working on some range-of-motion challenges as guard and forward, he feels confident and comfortable as the quarterback. When he’s not playing basketball and football, he pitches and plays shortstop for Blue Jay baseball. He’ll begin his senior year in the fall and look to defend the team’s state title.
“We’re so grateful he got to play again,” Marty said.