A third-place medal at the state wrestling meet and berth downstate in the shot put provided proof that Joey Valdivia's ankles had healed.
But this was football.
Last year Valdivia helped Grayslake Central put together one of its best seasons in the program's history. But a sprained right ankle and then a sprained left ankle forced the hard-running back to miss one game and play a couple of others at less than maximum physical health.
"It was frustrating," Valdivia said. "Me being out hurt us."
A healthy Valdivia helped the Rams put the hurt on host Round Lake on Friday night. Grayslake Central won 47-6, as Valdivia rushed for 2 touchdowns and scored on a pair of screen passes from quarterback Ray Beckman.
"He's pretty special," coach Nick Goshe, whose Rams advanced to the second round of the playoffs last fall, said of Valdivia.
Like fellow returning starter Valdivia, Beckman showed he can be in line for a special season. The 6-foot-5 senior completed 8 of 11 passes for 232 yards and 4 touchdowns. Vince Smith had TD catches of 9 and 36 yards, as Grayslake Central extended a 14-0 lead after one quarter to 34-0 by halftime.
"Our big thing early in the year is attitude and effort," Goshe said. "We got the effort that we wanted, but we got to clean up some of the attitude. Too many fouls (7 penalties for 59 yards). It was a lot of that first-game stuff, where the emotions are running probably a little too high."
Jake Paust helped set the tone early for Grayslake Central, stuffing Round Lake's athletic Anthony Burton on a fake punt from the home team's 31 after the Panthers were stopped on the game's first series.
"I just did my job," said Paust, who started at both outside linebacker and right tackle. "I wanted to make sure I didn't fall for the fake. Once I saw (Burton) keep the ball, I went for it."
"It just fell apart," said Burton, who later successfully executed a fake punt.
Grayslake Central capitalized two plays later, when Valdivia bounced outside and clipped the left pylon from 21 yards out. Charlie Risinger's interception at the line of scrimmage set up Valdivia's 2-yard TD run that capped a 20-yard drive and made it 14-0.
Beckman flipped a screen pass to Valdivia, who ran 33 yards into the end zone, and the Rams were up 20-0 early in the second quarter.
Valdivia turned a Beckman lob pass into a 61-yard TD catch early in the third.
"I felt good tonight," said Valdivia, who caught 3 passes for 147 yards and rushed five times for 46 yards. "I still got a long way to go. The team does (too). I think if we keep going hard at practice, we'll be good at the end (of the season)."
Besides Risinger, Grayslake Central got interceptions from Jimmy Molitor and sophomore Matt Loeffl (final play of the game). Dylan Hay recovered a fumble for the Rams.
"Defensively, kids ran and tackled," Goshe said. "That's what we preach."
Round Lake got a 44-yard touchdown run from quarterback Burton (15 carries, 122 yards) late in the game. Andrew Parnell caught 6 passes from Burton.
"John has those kids playing hard for four quarters," Goshe said of Round Lake coach John Coursey. "He can be really proud of his guys. They gave us some fits early on because they were throwing stuff we hadn't seen."
Round Lake committed 13 penalties for 105 yards and were plagued by poor field position all night.
"I think they just came out more ready to play than we did," Burton said.