A miraculous recovery: Malachi Fannin-Render returns from ACL tear in the spring to make a big impact for the Grangers

Published 2:53 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

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Malachi Fannin-Render is back. The junior running back for the LaGrange Grangers had made a miraculous recovery from an ACL tear he sustained in the spring. Dark times lay between the day he tore his ACL and where he is now, but somehow, someway he is back on the field for the Grangers as they get ready to take on reigning AAAA state champions Benedictine in the second round of the playoffs on Friday.

“This season has been full of ups and downs and I have had to overcome a lot of adversity,” Fannin-Render said. 


The ascent 

Fannin-Render burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2022. He finished as the team’s second-leading rusher with 665 yards despite playing in just four games. It was a sensational run to start his varsity career for the Grangers. 

It seemed like Fannin-Render was a prodigal talent destined for greatness as he had 100-yard games in all four of his appearances.

And just when it seemed like nothing could slow him down…


The injuries

The reason that Fannin-Render only played four games was because of a broken collarbone. It was a difficult time for Fannin-Render, but he always saw this as a chance to strengthen his football mind.

“I was pretty down, but then I started to focus in on the game and study the game,” he said. “I just wanted to learn and stay healthy.”

Fannin-Render watched as the team enjoyed a dramatic win against Troup to book a spot in the state playoffs. He was happy, but heartbroken as he could not compete in a game that meant so much to him as he was originally on the path to go to Troup High and still has friends that wear the blue and gold of the Tigers.

During that time he envisioned himself having a monster junior season. That vision stayed in his mind right up until his devastating non-contact injury in the spring.


The doubt

A once confident and composed young man was left with crippling doubt after his second major injury diagnosis in the span of just a handful of months.

“I felt like it could all be over for me because of the injury I suffered before too,” Fannin-Render said. “I really felt like I would be done (with football).”

The game of football, which he held so dearly to his heart, began to feel like a prison. He no longer felt like himself without football.

With the support of his coaches and parents, he was able to pull himself out of the despair he was feeling.

“They made sure I kept my head up and made sure I never missed any of my workouts no matter how I was feeling,” Fannin-Render said. “They made sure I was resting good, eating good. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Even after he decided to continue his football journey, there was still doubt. Doubt that he could play again, doubt that he could be the same player and doubt that his knee would hold up.

To think he could play a down of competitive football in 2023 was not just a doubt, it was a pipedream.

“At times it was really depressing because I really wanted to be out there,” Fannin-Render said. “It didn’t feel right being on the sidelines.”


The return

Now, there is no doubt.

“I dealt with (being nervous) the first couple days I was back out there, but I wouldn’t make any progress if I was always playing scared,” he said. 

Fannin-Render’s body had to mend, but so did his mind. It was a slow and difficult process that eventually paid off.

“When they told me I was cleared I could do nothing but smile,” Fannin-Render said. 

When Fannin-Render was cleared to play in the LaGrange-Troup game, he was overcome with emotion.

“I didn’t expect to play this season, it really is a blessing,” he said. “It was such an exciting moment because I’ve always wanted to play in that game, but I kept dealing with injuries, so to finally play in one it made me feel really good.”

His coach, on the other hand, was in shock.

“When something like that happens, you don’t expect to have him back this season,” Matt Napier said. “Your timeframe is not usually this short, but that’s a credit to him because he worked his tail off to get back.  

“Seeing him back out there makes my heart smile.”

Fannin-Render showed up to his first practice after being medically cleared and his teammates and coaches’ pride and disbelief that day has stuck with him.

After seven carries for 47 yards in his first game back against Troup, Fannin-Render exploded for 106 yards and a touchdown on just six carries, leading the team or tying for the team lead in all three categories. 

When the Grangers hopped on the bus to travel to Savannah, Fannin-Render was there, not in street closes, but in full pads, ready to make an impact.

“Honestly, I’m feeling great,” he said. “I’m at about 95% right now.”