Andre Gordon could have had a really short football career.
It turned out it was a rough start to a very promising one.
Gordon is a junior at Abraham Lincoln High School, and when he first started playing for the Railsplitters, he wasn’t seeing a lot of time, so he wasn’t taking it as seriously as he should have.
Then he got hurt.
He suffered a pretty severe knee injury that included a dislocated kneecap and a torn MCL and required surgery.
Nobody would have blamed Gordon if he hung up his cleats for good. But he had two people help nurse him through the injury. And that helped turn the linebacker into the football player he is today.
“I got a lot of help from our coach Joey D (DiGrazio), I had the surgery and after it, while I was getting better, he was showing me the ropes of the position,” Gordon said. “I was young, so he knew if I learned it, I could help the team. Coach Hakeem (Cooper) helped me a lot, too.
“Joey was giving me game stuff. He knew exactly what I should be doing. He was great, one of the best to ever play here. So he was showing me things, how to be a better linebacker. He showed me what I should be doing, he taught me everything.”
The motivation kept Gordon focused. In fact, he admits even during his freshman season, he wasn’t always completely locked in to what he should be doing. But since returning from the injury, he’s been the exact football player the Railsplitters hoped he could be.
And he’s ready for more.
Gordon stepped into a starting role as a sophomore, and he got better every snap.
By the end of the season, when Lincoln was one of the top teams in the Public League, Gordon was one of the leaders of the defense, and he hopes to expand on everything he learned last year when the 2023 season begins.
“Last year, all the stuff that Coach Joey and Coach Hak taught me, it helped so much, I focused on a lot of not really the football aspect, but the other stuff,” said Gordon, who lives in Mayfair. “Get strength back, rehab, get in the pool. A lot of rehab, they definitely helped me during surgery. I was in a dark place mentally, I was always active. Having knee surgery slowed me down. Made me question if I could still play. They talked to me every day. It meant a lot to me.”
It was that belief that helped Gordon step into key roles last year.
Toward the end of the season, Lincoln defensive leader Jaden Harris suffered an injury that kept him on the sidelines. Someone had to make the defensive calls after the setback, and Gordon stepped up to do that.
He passes all of the credit on to his coaches and teammates.
“Our captain got hurt,” Gordon recalled. “He was the one getting the play and telling us the play. Keeping us in check. I had to step up at a young age. It was a time when we were going into the playoffs. I had to take control of the defense.
“I was playing middle linebacker. I was nervous, not because of the pressure, I just had to know everyone’s job, not just my job. Getting the opportunity to be trusted, that helped. They think I can do it? Then I can do it.
“With the help of Jaden Harris, I can do it. We spent time after practice, he’d give me signals and calls. He helped me so much. He graduated, but it helped that I had him and the coaches believing in me. I’m still good friends with him, he helped me so much.”
And Gordon was happy he was able to help Gordon and the other seniors on the team reach the Public League championship game, where the Railsplitters fell just short of knocking off the defending champion Northeast Vikings.
“It was very important for me because I took it as a duty to make sure we get there,” Gordon said. “A lot of seniors didn’t get that when they were younger. I have that experience. I’m so happy for the seniors who got there. I wanted to get there. Now we have to win it. I want to get back there and win it.”
So far, things are looking good.
Lincoln returns arguably the best team in the Public League outside of Imhotep Charter, so the Railsplitters should have a say in who represents the Public League in the District 12 6A championship game.
Gordon and his teammates have been working hard all summer, both in the weight room and on the field. As practice has started for the year, Gordon feels good and has high hopes for the Railsplitters this year.
“I’ll do the same this year and even at practice, I feel confident,” Gordon said of making the calls. “Knowing calls and knowing what we have to do. I know what everyone has to do now. So far it’s going great. My knee feels way, way better and the team is looking a lot better than last year. I think we can go to states, we have a better chance than ever.
“As a team, we need to work harder and have more of a sense of urgency in the chemistry. We need to come together. Last year we had great chemistry and we seem like we’re getting there now.”
No matter what he does, he’ll make his family proud, especially his uncle who got him into football. He’s not around to cheer his nephew on, but he would love what he’d see.
“My uncle got me involved in football, Kevin Turchi,” Gordon said of his uncle, who died about 10 years ago. “He was a football player, I would go to his games, he played semipro. He taught me a lot. I hope I make my whole family proud.
“When I’m not playing football, I’m at home, chilling with my family, my sister, my mom, my dad. I want to go to college, then get everyone out of Philly, somewhere safe. I hope I can use football to do that.”