Most of his thoughts were negative. Laurel soccer standout Isaiah Gore willingly admits to that. Shortly after his junior year of soccer – in March of 2018 to be exact – Gore was told the only option to correct his knee problem was surgery, and how grueling the seven-month recovery process would be.
“I was devastated because I was supposed to go to a lot of [soccer] camps at [different] colleges,” said Gore. “I was looking forward to those camps. Most of my thoughts were negative. [Thoughts that said] I wasn’t going to be able to play, and if I came back, I wouldn’t be the same player I once was.”
Now, fast forward to today – Gore is recognized as Sports601’s Powerade Boys Soccer Player of the Year for the 2018-2019 season.
How does someone go from severe injury to being named as such? Laurel boys head soccer coach Julio Martinez said Gore’s character is as essential to his success as his athletic ability.
“It’s such an honor to have a humble player like him in our program,” said Martinez. “He’s an unbelievable human being. He’s not perfect, but I don’t mind calling him my son. I love that kid, and even my own son thinks a lot of him [as a person and player].
“All of our kids are important to me, but Gore was one of the main reasons I decided to come back [and coach] another year of soccer here. I wanted to see him finish here and moving on to the next level.”
Following his surgery, Gore wasn’t sure he’d be able to come back and play. Rehab, though hard, progressed in his favor. Gore wasn’t the only one relieved of the news that playing his senior year was a strong possibility.
“He’s like the big daddy, big brother, big friend of the team,” said Martinez. “When he told his teammates that he’d be playing, it was like a huge weight was lifted off their shoulders knowing that he’d be out there.”
Gore admits his first game back was nerve-wracking.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to deliver on the field like I had been doing,” said Gore. “The majority problem was anxiety. I was very anxious. I was thinking, what if this happens again. I even told Coach that I didn’t want to play college ball when the time comes because I didn’t want to get hurt again. I didn’t want to risk that. But everything so far has turned out great.”
It took several games for Gore to feel comfortable again. When the anxiety subsided, Laurel was in business with Gore guarding the net. He helped Laurel make postseason play for the first time in over two years, averaging nine saves a game and helping his team advance to the second round of the playoffs.
“It meant a lot being able to experience that again,” said the five-year starter. Gore played significant time as an eighth grader when Laurel last made the playoffs. “It not only meant a lot to me, especially coming off major surgery. It also meant a lot to my teammates, some experiencing it for the first time.”
Martinez said it was all a team effort, but Gore played a huge part in that. Keepers don’t often have a lot of stats to show their importance on the field. But people notice. Even Martinez and opposing coaches noticed.
“It’s not just because of him, but he kept us in the games,” Martinez said. “He kept us in the games when we were slightly behind, and he kept teams from tying with us a lot when we were in the lead.”
“Isaiah has always been a good player,” said West Jones boys head coach Josh Sullivan. “He was like that when we started early on as a keeper and in the field. You could tell he gave 100 percent. The last few times we played them, he kept Laurel in the game. He’s a great kid and a good leader on the field from what I was able to see.”
Gore will continue his soccer career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
“It was unexpected,” said Gore, “but I’m glad it happened. The Gulf Coast coach came to the Sportsplex one day to watch a game. He came to watch another kid play, and that is when he noticed me. He liked how I played and got my number from Coach Martinez. He told me then that he wanted me as their keeper.”