It would have been easy to count out Brooks Benton.
At the age of 17, the former Chapel Hill High School quarterback and baseball first-baseman was lying in a hospital bed with both arms incapacitated and a leg in traction. Doctors had recently removed a 4-centimeter tumor from his right arm; his left arm was broken and his knee ligaments ruptured by a fall just days into his post-surgery recovery.
It would be weeks before he could walk, let alone run, or do the one thing he longed to do more than anything else - play baseball.
"Basically, I lost my junior year," Benton said recently.
A high school athlete's junior year is a pivotal one in the college recruiting process. Most NCAA Division I programs begin to firm up their plans a year before an athlete matriculates. Some baseball programs lock up their recruiting commitments before the end of a high school senior's fall semester.
Benton, who had wanted to play college baseball ever since he was a Pee Wee player, would have had every reason to think he had no chance of making it to the next level.
Not so, he said.
"One of my favorite sayings is that 'God gives his biggest battles to his toughest soldiers.' Things have a crazy way of working out, but God makes them work," Benton said.
Things have indeed worked out so far for Benton. Despite missing his junior year of sports at Chapel Hill High School, he's signed up to play this year at Louisburg, one of the nation's best junior-college baseball programs.
"He has all the basic skills needed," said Louisburg baseball coach Keith Shumate. "When I saw him, he clearly showed the potential to hit..."