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Patrick Maloney's journey of recovery leads him back to Kennard-Dale High football field

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • Approximately one year ago, Kennard-Dale's Patrick Maloney suffered a serious head injury.
  • Since then, Maloney has gone through head surgery and months of rehab.
  • Maloney has since graduated from K-D and now helps coach the Rams' football team.

When Patrick Maloney left the field on Senior Night last season, it was his final football game.

Maloney, however, left for a much different reason, and in a much different way, than most players who put on their cleats for the last time.

The Kennard-Dale High School player exited the stadium in an ambulance after he suffered a frightening head injury that caused a brain bleed. The injury required emergency surgery, leaving his family, teammates, coaches and the entire K-D community gravely worried about the Rams’ standout lineman.

One year and countless hours of rehab later, Maloney, now a K-D graduate, can again be found on the Rams’ sideline, just in a new role. At the request of K-D coach Chris Grube, Maloney volunteers as a coach, between online college courses, and continues to help the Rams win games in a different way.

As K-D prepares to play its final 2020 game on Friday night, vs. the opponent Maloney suffered his injury against — Eastern York — the Rams’ former team captain is just happy to be back on the field, hanging around with his friends and enjoying the sport he loved to play.

“This week is going to be a little more emotional because it’s Eastern, but coming back every week and watching everyone put in the same work — the blood, sweat and tears — that I put in, it’s a sensational feeling,” Maloney said.

The injury: K-D senior lineman Gabe Hulslander has been close friends with Maloney throughout high school and was playing next to Maloney on the Rams’ offensive line when he went down last season. 

Kennard-Dale senior Patrick Maloney returns home five months after suffering head injury

Hulslander described the night his friend was injured as rough. He spent the days that followed wondering how the injury happened. Maloney originally grabbed his ankle, but told Grube he believed he had a concussion before he later collapsed on the sideline, lost consciousness and was rushed to York Hospital on Oct. 25.

Patrick Maloney, a former Kennard-Dale lineman, jokes with his best friend Gabe Hulslander during a break at a team practice at the school Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. As a senior, Patrick suffered a serious head injury last year and is currently with the team as an assistant coach. Bill Kalina photo

Maloney may not be lined up next to Hulslander anymore, but having his friend back around the program has been amazing for the Rams’ senior.

“It means everything to me,” Hulslander said. “Having him right by my side all last year and coming up through high school, we were best friends, and then that happened on what was such a special night for him and his classmates. To now, one year later, he’s still here fighting for him and us. It’s definitely awesome.”

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The recovery: Maloney returned home from his rehabilitation at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute in Baltimore in late March and has continued to make great strides in his rehab process.

When Grube saw how far Maloney had come during the coaching staff’s weekly visits, the coach wondered if he would be interested in becoming a coach.

Kennard-Dale senior Patrick Maloney returns home five months after suffering head injury

His main concern was making sure Maloney and his mother, Jennifer, were on board to returning to the the sport that led to his injury. With the pair OK with it, Grube was excited to get the former Rams’ captain around his teammates and was grateful that Jennifer Maloney allowed her son to return to the program.

“I can’t thank her enough for letting us be a part of Patrick’s journey because some people could have cut us off and not want us around because, unfortunately, football did cause that injury, but she brought us in with open arms,” Grube said.

Kennard-Dale head coach Chris Grube runs a team practice at the school Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. He coached last year when senior Patrick Maloney suffered a serious head injury. Maloney is currently with the team as an assistant coach. Bill Kalina photo

The coaching role: Grube has a rule that prevents former players from returning as coaches until it has been four years since they played, to avoid coaches being friends with current players, but he made an exception for Maloney.

Hulslander said having someone so close to the players, who can teach them differently than a coach, has been a big positive for the Rams this season.

“The coaches do an awesome job, but you still think of them like a teacher,” Hulslander said. “He’s still our age, just a year older, but he’s instilling in us the knowledge that he has and it’s an easier way to relate. It’s definitely helped us a lot.”

Patrick Maloney, a former Kennard-Dale lineman, stands with coaches while the team practices at the school Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. As a senior, he suffered a serious head injury last year and is currently with the team as an assistant coach. Bill Kalina photo

Maloney said it’s different coaching, rather than being able to do the things that his former teammates are doing. Formerly being a team captain, however, and instructing and teaching younger players is nothing new.

During games, Maloney’s duties include filming, and Grube believes he could have a long coaching career, if Maloney chooses to that path. The Rams’ coach added that the three-time York-Adams League Division II all-star had the talent to play college football and has the ability to impart his wisdom onto younger players.

An inspiration: Maloney already has one aspect of coaching down in his first season — the pregame speech.

He spoke to the Rams before the team opened its season with a victory over reigning division champion York Suburban on Sept. 25, and provided the spark that motivated the Rams for a big win, including jumping out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead.

“We never knew what Patrick’s situation was going to be, if he was ever going to be able to recover,” Hulslander said. “It all came together that night. For him to step back out on the football field after that injury and to talk to us on that night was just special.”

One year after his playing career ended against Eastern York, Maloney’s first season as a coach comes to a close against the Golden Knights on Friday. With a victory, the Rams (3-2) can finish off a winning season.

His friends, former teammates and coaches and the K-D community are happy to have him back around the football field, providing some much-needed inspiration during a difficult time.

Patrick Maloney, a former Kennard-Dale lineman, jokes with his best friend Gabe Hulslander, left, during a team practice at the school Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. As a senior, Patrick suffered a serious head injury last year and is currently with the team as an assistant coach. Bill Kalina photo

"Unreal feeling:" After months of grueling rehab to regain his ability to speak and walk, Maloney is back with his boys talking ball. They had his back when he needed them in the hospital and now it's his turn to help them out, while also enjoying how far his journey has brought him over the past 12 months.

“It’s an absolutely awesome feeling because a lot of those guys back behind me were there all through rehab, like Gabe (and) Grube,” Maloney said. “So, it’s a pretty unreal feeling.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.