Comeback kid

Comeback kid


For the Pierce College Brahmas it was another disappointing defeat. This season has seen some of its worst football in four years. But for one Pierce College player, the seemingly daily defeat is only a sour sidebar on what has been a road to redemption.

For Donne Lobendahn, the 6’8, 340 lbs offensive lineman, who helps protect the blind side for the Brahmas, life is better than before. That previous life was filled with hungry nights.

Lobendahn, 25, who comes from a family rich in its football legacy, was stuck. After his playing days at Gahr High School in Cerritos he became involved with some of the wrong people and lacked the maturity it took to be a successful athlete. He played football at Cerritos College where his dad Vince Lobendahn was a coach.

“Initially when I started junior college I didn’t understand the kind of dedication it required, the sacrifices I needed and the struggles,” Lobendahn said. “I had to adapt everyday to the struggles and challenging homelessness and going nights without food. I had nobody at times, I had to learn to be independent.”

Lobendahn failed to succeed in the classroom as well as the football field. He didn’t like school in the past and because he couldn’t hold various jobs, playing football and going to school led to homelessness.

Lobendahn, 25, has taken personal responsibility and hasn’t blamed anyone but himself through his struggles with education.

“I didn’t take school seriously at first and so I never understood the value of it,” Lobendahn said. “I was homeless because I couldn’t make any money at the time. I got hungry and there were days where I didn’t eat. There were nights where I felt like crying until it broke me down to get what I needed.”

Lobendahn struggled to turn his life around while the rest of his family was having success. After coaching for 15 years, V. Lobendahn returned to coach at John Glenn High School in Norwalk. Meanwhile little brother To’a Lobendahn maintained a high grade point average and along with his tremendous talent of being a skilled offensive lineman, he was accepted to the University of Southern California (USC) on an athletic scholarship.

Donne looks up to his little brother and says that his two main goals is to get a bachelor’s degree and join his brother at USC.

“It would be a dream come true to play with To’a for the Trojans,” Lobendahn said. “Ever since we were kids we always wanted to play on the team and he is an inspiration for everything that I do.”

“I have been a pretty poor example of an older brother. But one thing I have always tried to do is show him that it is ok to make a mistake because you can bounce back from that and I’m living proof of that. I have made a lot of mistakes in the short time I have had on this earth and I have always bounced back. I have learned to value relationships and learned to grow as an entire being.”

After his struggles at Cerritos and problems becoming eligible, Lobendahn went to College of the Canyons (COC), the team that won last year’s state championship and is known for getting athletes into shape. But things took a turn for the worst while playing a pick-up basketball game in 2012. While he was playing, Lobendahn stepped awkwardly and shattered his left ankle which would require surgery.

“At first I wasn’t going to go but my girlfriend made me go to the hospital,” Lobendahn said. “But when I got to the hospital things only got worse.”

Not only did Lobendahn end up breaking his ankle, but the cast that was applied to his ankle was wrapped too tight and caused blood clots. The injury forced Lobendahn to take a whole year off from football to get his health back in order.

“I literally had to learn how to do everything all over again,” Lobendahn said. “I had to learn how to walk. I couldn’t shower on my own and I couldn’t do the simple things I needed in life.”

Lobendahn got inspiration from his girlfriend of two years Allison Perry. Perry saved Lobendahn’s football career, and his life.

“He has a good heart and he’s very strong,” Perry said. “We have helped each other through some hard situations, he helped save me from throwing my life away. He makes me a better person.”

After Lobendahn got rehabilitated, he had a choice to make. Either to stay at COC or join Pierce College that has had a good reputation of getting players into Division I programs. He found out about Pierce through a number of former COC players who had joined Pierce along with his friend, Brahmas defensive tackle Chung Lee.

“We have a brotherhood and we stick together,” Lee said. “We help each other out and we want each other to be successful.”

Even though Lobendahn was finally healthy by the spring of 2014, he still lacked the necessary motivation and needed someone to push him. It couldn’t be a coach, but a mentor and he found that with sophomore offensive lineman David Barajas.

Barajas himself had come from a solid football background like Lobendahn. He also had to deal with the adversity of coming back from a serious football injury. Last season while playing for Pierce, Barajas suffered a torn MCL. The injury would require surgery and four to six months of recovery time. So when Lobendahn asked Barajas to be his motivator, he was more than happy to provide the extra push.

“I told him the first thing he needed to do was to work his [tail] off,” Barajas said. “I’d have to tell him all the time to not be afraid and sometimes he would want to quit on himself. I just told him that he had to persevere and I didn’t want him to fail.”

Barajas also talked about the strength it takes to recover from a bad injury and that the only way to get better is fighting through it.

“Whenever he said his ankle would start to hurt, it wouldn’t actually be hurting it’s just his mind telling him that he couldn’t do it,” Barajas said. “It’s the same thing that I went through with my knee but ultimately you just have to push through it. He’s my brother and I didn’t want to see him fail.”

For Lobendahn he ultimately lived up to the challenge and survived both spring workouts and summer training to make the team. Even though his team is struggling with a 1-4 record he tries to be a positive influence.

“I’m trying to keep everyone positive and show them that just because we have taken four losses in the last four weeks doesn’t mean that we aren’t capable of having a successful season,” Lobendahn said. “I just want to instill hope in people and I want them to have faith and that this team is still a contender for the playoffs.”