Robbie Block was the picture of focus, squatting on the Riverhead sideline in meditation, helmet in hand with his long brown locks flowing over the sides of his white headband.
It was during this moment, before the playing of the national anthem, when Block might have been putting himself in the proper frame of mind to hit and get hit on the football field.
Football is an emotional game, and Block is an emotional player. The Riverhead High School senior tries to make those emotions work for him.
A good deal of that emotion stems from his mother Debbie’s successful battle with breast cancer.
“I kind of think about the things I’m playing for,” Block said. “My mom had breast cancer so I play for her. I just sit there. I think about stuff that makes me mad, and I take it out on the field.”
That emotion is one of the things that makes Block such an intense player.
“He brings that emotional fire to the game,” coach Leif Shay said. “He’s not afraid to mix it up.”
Block may also use as motivation an injury that cost him most of his junior season. It was during the second game of the 2015 season against North Babylon when Block ran across the field to make a tackle and his left leg was caught in an awkward position during a multi-player collision. He tore his MCL.
“I got up from it,” he recalled. “I saw my leg. It wasn’t really how a knee is supposed to be and I fell right back down to the ground. I was in a lot of pain, but the adrenaline, I just wanted to get back out there.”
And he did. After sitting out the second quarter and half of the third, Block went back on the field. It was his last action of the season, though.
“It’s tough for anyone when you love a game and can’t play,” Riverhead quarterback/outside linebacker Kyle Kelly said. “Robbie loves the game. He’s hyped about everything. He’ll do anything he can to play. He’ll do anything he can to win.”
Surgery would have sidelined Block for over a year, meaning he wouldn’t have been able to play lacrosse this past spring.
“On my own decision, not my parents,” he said, “I decided just go through physical therapy, deal with the pain, get a brace for my knee and start working out and restrengthening it on my own.”
He was on the field again about six weeks into the lacrosse season.
Block said he is 100 percent now, and his play backs that up. The energetic linebacker was involved in nine tackles (four solo) in a 24-0 loss at Smithtown East on Saturday. As a tight end, he caught a six-yard pass.
In three games this season, Block has made eight solo tackles to go with five assists and a fumble recovery.
“I feel like I’ve been playing good,” he said. “I feel like I can play a lot better, execute more.”
In the meantime, Block is relishing every moment on the field.
Photo caption: Robbie Block, an emotional player who missed most of last season with a torn MCL, has brought Riverhead energy. (Credit: Bob Liepa)