An unforeseen event occurred to Andres Dario Pinzon en route to success on the pitch - a serious knee injury.
One weekend in the fall of 2011 while playing a soccer match at Spring Hill's Anderson Snow Sports Complex, Pinzon was chasing a defender when he simply planted his right foot and his knee twisted.
In an instant, the 5-foot-11, 159-pound Pinzon, a 2012 graduate of Hernando High, heard a sound most student/athletes surely fear: the dreaded "pop."
Oddly enough in the physical game of soccer there was no contact on the play.
The native of Bogota, Colombia, who has called Brooksville home for the past 12 winters, inadvertently damaged his right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
In a blink, his burgeoning placekicking duties for the Hernando Leopards under John Palmer and his county-leading scoring skills as a forward for Andy Suarez took a backseat to pain and swelling.
The middle of four children to Dario and Margarita Pinzon eventually flew to Columbia in December for corrective surgery.
As a result, Pinzon's script for a perfect senior season was shelved.
Due to the injury, he quietly witnessed the Purple and Gold gridders and booters with crutches along the sidelines.
"That was the low; it was the worst. When I got hurt, I didn't want to go to school," admitted a frustrated Pinzon. "It sucked to watch my friends and teammates do what I used to do."
Time, as they say, is the great equalizer. His young body responded to a lengthy rehabilitation process.
Deep down, Pinzon believes his injury was a supreme test.
"I talked with (ex-Leopard standout) Zach (Pritz), who was injured during the same time. He's very spiritual and he said everything happens for a reason," detailed Pinzon. "He's absolutely right. I had to get over it (being hurt). I was fortunate that everyone around me was incredibly supportive."
He eventually played on a men's team based out of Hudson - the Strikers - where he tested out his new model.
"Right now, I feel like I'm at 100 percent," beamed the 19-year-old Pinzon. "I didn't start playing until halfway through the season, but since I came back, it's felt as good as new. I feel like I can do all the things I did before."
On what his recovery has shown, "The injury kind of lit a fire under me to get back out there," declared Pinzon. "The time along the sidelines gave me a different prospective of things. I think it really helped my vision to see the entire field as a play develops."
Pinzon traced his athletic roots to the pitch.
Since he arrived in Brooksville at 7 years old, he played for the Brooksville United Soccer Association for six winters - mostly as a striker.
He followed that with two seasons of competitive ball with the Hernando Heat. He also recalled playing with a pair of West Pasco County soccer programs for two seasons.
At Parrott Middle School - where there is no soccer program offered - Pinzon stayed active by competing in the 800 and 1,600 meters as a seventh- and eighth-grader.
After matriculating to Hernando, Pinzon served as Leopards' punter/placekicker during his sophomore and junior campaigns.
On the pitch, he played three full seasons at the varsity level tallying 30 goals and 12 assists.
Before the ACL injury, Pinzon recalls a "couple feelers" from schools in Alabama and Tennessee. His goal, however, was to attend nearby USF.
After the injury, the phone never rang concerning any offers at the next level.
"All I want to do is play soccer" expressed a determined Pinzon. "It's what I do best."
To that end, he and his brother visited NAIA's Thomas University in Thomasville, Ga. - just north of Tallahassee.
Founded in 1950, Thomas is a four-year, co-educational university that serves the post-secondary educational needs of South Georgia and north Florida.
"Initially, I thought it was a pretty small campus, but it was awesome," he recalled. "The people I met were real nice, very welcoming. I met with coach (head coach Ricky Zambrano) and he was straight with me. He explained that it wasn't going to be a walk in the park to play up here."
Pinzon, who graduated with a 2.9 grade point average, called Culinary Arts and any science courses his favorite on the Leopard campus.
At Thomas he plans to major in biology. After living on a farm as a child, Pinzon aspires to work with animals as either a zoologist or perhaps as a wildlife biologist.
"I not sure where coach wants me to play, but I'll play anywhere they want," noted Pinzon, a two-time All-County soccer selection at forward. "I think it really all depends on what kind of shape I'm in when I get there.
"There's definitely room for improvement there (fitness), but I've been working out, doing drills every day."
Looking back at his HHS experience, "I had an awesome time in both football and soccer," he recalled. "It would have been awesome to play as a senior, but like Zach (Pritz) taught me - things happen for a reason."
At the next level, "I need to be able to control the ball better," noted Pinzon. "Since my freshman year I think I've improved with my vision."
Looking in the mirror Pinzon describes himself in the simplest terms, saying, "Since I can remember I had a soccer ball at my feet. To me, it's always about getting a goal."
As far as obstacles in his path to success, "It's all about me. The only thing standing in my way is me," he detailed. "It's all about my approach. I have to continue to work hard for whatever I want to achieve."
As he journeys nearly 3½ hours and just over 200 miles to reach the Night Hawks' campus, Pinzon brushes his prep soccer achievements aside.
"I want people to remember my character, not just my goals," he pointed out. "I want to be remembered as the kind of person who never quit and always strived to be the best.
"This (opportunity at playing at Thomas) is exactly what I've been looking forward to," he added. "This is the start of my comeback."
By the numbers: Hernando's Andres Pinzon (2008-12)
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YEAR YR G A TP
2008-09 9th 5 0 10
2009-10 ^ 10th 6 1 13
2010-11 ^ 11th 19 11 49*
2011-12 12th DNP-Injured
TOTALS 30 12 72
^ Denotes All-County selection
* Denotes county leader