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Graff bounces back in big way

CRYSTAL FALLS—From the time he was aware of such things, Lee Graff was never disconnected from athletics.
    He was the small kid running around at Forest Park football practices and games as a manager from the time he was in kindergarten. He was the youngster who played 3-on-3 basketball with his friend Brett Smithson beginning early in elementary school.
    And as he progressed through the middle grades, high-school coaches just knew Graff was going to sail through junior varsity ball and right into prime spots on the varsity football and basketball teams.
    But then it all derailed. On a nondescript winter day while skiing at Crystella Ski Hill during his freshman year, Graff’s path to prep glory was uprooted. Literally.
    “I was just going down the hill – they’ve got this little part that’s kind of in the woods – and there was this root sticking out of the ground,” Graff recalled. “I was skiing normally and I hit the stump. The bottom of my leg twisted and the top half just kept going.”
    At first, Graff thought little of the mishap. Though his left knee ached and he couldn’t do any more jumps because landing hurt too much, he kept skiing that day.
    He never mentioned the accident to his parents Dave and Julie after he arrived home. He thought the pain would just go away.
    But it didn’t. And so began a 9-month odyssey that took the Forest Park senior through the lonely road of MRIs, surgery and grueling rehabilitation.
    The story turns out well, of course, as anyone who pays attention to local prep sports can attest. After missing his entire sophomore season on the gridiron, Graff came back with a vengeance to the point of earning the U.P. Small School Offensive Player of the Year award this fall after rushing for 2,015 yards.
    He has also been a vital member of the Forest Park basketball team, which went 20-4 and came within an eyelash of a regional championship last year and is off to a flying 5-0 start this winter.
    But that’s the view from here. The view from the cold and dark winter of 2011-12, however, was much more murky.
    After the injury,

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