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Senior spotlight: Keystone Heights’ Ben Ulsch

Football season, not positive outlook, lost to knee injury

Don Coble
Posted 5/9/24

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The more Ben Ulsch talks, the more he tries to put football behind him. He tells you a third-place finish in the Class 1A 169-pound state weightlifting championship was a …

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Senior spotlight: Keystone Heights’ Ben Ulsch

Football season, not positive outlook, lost to knee injury


Posted

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The more Ben Ulsch talks, the more he tries to put football behind him. He tells you a third-place finish in the Class 1A 169-pound state weightlifting championship was a consolation for missing his senior football season.

He smiles when he says he’s eager to intern with a construction company this summer, attend Sante Fe State College in the fall, and eventually get a degree that will help him start his own construction company.

There is happiness in his voice and clarity in his words. But anyone with a true passion knows a surgeon’s knife can’t repair a fractured dream.

Ben partially tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in the second game of his junior season, but he finished the game. His knee swelled during the night, and his season was over.

“That really discouraged me more than things had in the past,” Ben said. “You know, I had my routine of school and sports, and I stayed on top of school to play football. When I tore my ACL, I missed the rest of my junior year. I expected to return after months of rehab and time stretching and working out my leg after successful surgery.

“I hoped to play my senior year football because, like I said, football has been my passion since I was young. I love football more than just about anything.”

His body didn’t heal quickly enough to allow him to play his senior season.

“Not being able to play football was really, really difficult for me because football is a much different physical sport than weightlifting is,” he said. “You have to be conditioned to cut and stop on a dime with a knee that is still just not ready to recover. It takes time to heal, especially after two major surgeries.”

Ben is one of six brothers – five still in school in Keystone Heights. Their parents, Phillip and Holly Ulsch, were killed in 2018 when a logging truck pulled in front of them in Nassau County, and they ran into the back of it.

The older brother, Sam, graduated a year ago and is in the firefighting academy.

But like Sam, the brothers have found a way to forge through adversity to excel, both in the classroom and the community.

“If I could change, I definitely would have played football,” Ben said. “But you know, the important things in my life are my faith and relationship with God.

“I’ve gotten stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually. God worked through me, not only with my parents but also with this situation.”