Linebacker Isaiah Tindal batted a pass during a Watkins Mill High School football practice last season, and the ball dislocated his right middle finger.
“One part of his finger was pointed down, and the other part was pointed up,” Watkins Mill coach Kevin Watson said. “... You should have seen it. It was awful. It was AW-ful. Ugh. Hmm. I don’t know how he did it. ... That was nasty. Ugh, that was awful looking. Mm, can’t even, ugh. It sent chills to you.”
Players hooted and hollered. Coaches cringed.
“It wasn’t that bad,” said Tindal, who missed the next game and then returned the following week with a club taped around his hand designed to keep the finger straight.
That’s the calm Tindal brings to nearly every situation and the demeanor that allows him to be such a steady contributor.
He led Watkins Mill in tackles last season and is doing so again this season. Tindal doesn’t frequently penetrate the backfield, but he flies sideline to sideline to ensure opponents’ gains are as small as possible.
“You look on film and you’re charting the tackles, and the next thing you know, there he is,” Watson said. “He’s always there. I have no idea how he does it. A few kids get off the pile, and next thing, it’s Isaiah. It’s like, ‘Wow.’”
Tindal actually planned late last season to quit football once the year ended, and he left the team during the offseason. But an assistant coach persuaded him to watch a scrimmage in August.
Already encouraged by teammates, including many members of last year’s senior class, Tindal realized his team needed him.
Soon enough, he was back on the field and providing a calm presence.
“There’s no use in getting angry about something that you can’t fix,” Tindal said. “Once you’ve had that play, you can’t go back on it. So, might as well keep playing your game.”
Tindal said the mindset comes from his parents, who are both military members (which explains why Tindal was born in Germany).
But, every once in a while, he becomes heated.
Against James H. Blake last season, Tindal returned an interception for a touchdown. He jumped up and down and screamed in the end zone for a few seconds.
“I guess I was kind of excited, and then I realized I needed to keep a cool head, because some games, they give you a 15-yard penalty for celebration,” Tindal said. “So I was like, ‘OK, keep calm.’”
That secondary reaction didn’t surprise Watson at all.
“Any situation, he’s just that guy that’s going to be calm,” Watson said. “He’s not going to overreact. He’s not going underreact. He’s just going to be right there. I mean, that’s him.”