Kenton Braswell tore up his left shoulder during the summer.
A damaged labrum that may need surgery was nothing more than a minor inconvenience for the Murphy senior.
Braswell also had to be helped to the sidelines with a lingering ankle injury in the final minute of Saturday’s NCHSAA 1-A championship game at BB&T Field.
Bulldogs football coach David Gentry said Braswell hasn’t been healthy in that regard since early November.
Braswell played through the pain and then some — he was named the most valuable player of Saturday’s 35-34 win over Plymouth after rushing for a team-high 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Braswell’s 13-yard run with 4 minutes, 56 seconds to go, coupled with an extra point from Foster Stroup, proved to be the deciding score that gave Murphy (13-3) its seventh state championship.
Braswell was also in on six tackles.
“To me, there really wasn’t any other choice but to play,” Braswell said.
“Growing up and being a part of all these different teams, (last year’s 20-15 loss to Plymouth in the 1-A state championship game) was hard. I knew exactly what they were feeling today. I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. I’m just glad that we came out on top and we didn’t let the same thing happen to us again.”
Braswell finished his senior season with 1,344 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Despite his slight size at 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, Braswell landed scholarship offers from Gardner-Webb, Jacksonville State and Lipscomb before his injuries.
“Kenton has been hurt, but he has absolutely played his heart out for us,” Gentry said. “Our seniors were the heart of this team, and he really gave us a lift, especially in these last couple of games.”
The win by Braswell and Murphy on Saturday means Smoky Mountain Conference teams are now 29-7 since 1972 in NCHSAA football championship games.