By Mike Blackerby
Campbell County senior quarterback Landon Addington savors the moment.
One day at a time, one play at a time, one breath at a time.
His wise-beyond-his-years approach to life is one part the way he is wired and one part born of necessity.
Addington has cystic fibrosis (CF) – but you’d never know it.
In fact, the three-sport star athlete and top-tier student with the 3.9 grade-point-average considers himself one of the lucky ones.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, Addington said his CF rates about a 3.
“It’s honestly scary seeing some kids who have it really bad and what they have to go through,” said Addington.
“It could be a lot worse. I could be on total bed rest and have to just sit there and not do anything for the rest of my life. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Living with CF
CF is an incurable, inherited disease of the mucus glands that affects mostly the lungs and causes breathing problems.
The symptoms and severity of CF can vary wildly.
At one time, the outlook was especially bleak for youngsters diagnosed with the disease.
According to the National Institutes for Health, the expected median survival for CF patients in 1962 was about 10 years, with few surviving into their teenage years.
Thanks to improved medicines and respiratory therapies, the average life expectancy for CF patients in this country who live past childhood is now almost 40.
Today, some people living with CF live into their fifties or beyond.
Addington, even as a youngster, suspected something wasn’t quite right physically with him.
“I had no stamina,” he recalled.
“I always knew something was wrong. My sister was diagnosed with CF when she was 2, so they genetically tested me when I was 9 and I ended up having it too. It kind of scared me at first because I didn’t even know I had it.”
Addington undergoes a combination of daily physiotherapy and medication that clears mucus from his airways.
“I have to do treatments every day to keep it (CF) at ease and keep the condition mild instead of letting it accelerate,” he explained.
“I do vests and use a hypertonic saline mist that goes into your mouth and helps shake the mucus up.”
The “vest” is called a high frequency chest-wall oscillation machine.
It’s an inflatable vest that creates rapid bursts of air that vibrates and helps loosen mucus and clears the airway walls.
Addington takes his daily treatments in stride.
It’s just another example of how he takes ownership in all aspects of his life.
“You’ve got to take care of your responsibilities every day to make sure that everything you’re doing is right to help the disease,” he said.
Addington said his CF has improved as he has gotten older.
“Between my eighth grade and sophomore years I had to come out of the game a few times because I just couldn’t breathe.
“I haven’t had to come out of any games this year, but I can still tell it’s there – I’m short-winded a lot of the time,” he explained.
Waiting his turn
Addington sat behind all-state quarterback Zach Rutherford for three years before taking over as the Cougars’ quarterback this season.
“He’s a very talented kid who sat behind Zach, but he could have started at a lot of schools,” said Campbell County coach Justin Price.
While he had to bide his time before starting, Addington’s influence – both on and off the field – was immediate, according to Price.
“He has impacted me as a coach about as much as any player I’ve ever had,” said the Campbell County coach.
“He has never made it (CF) a big deal or talked about his issues. His focus has been on football and life in general.”
Price said the way Addington accepted being a backup for three seasons without complaining spoke volumes about his character.
“To wait his time and only get one big year to play quarterback for us, is to me, something that a lot of kids won’t do,” said Price.
“Landon doesn’t live in the past or look to the future too much. He is just focused on ‘what is it I’m dealing with right now and what do I need to do to handle it?’ The way he approaches it is impactful.”
Challenges on the field, too
Campbell County (2-4, 0-2 Region 3-5A) faces a must-win game against Karns (1-6, 0-4) on Friday if the Cougars hope to stay in the hunt for one of the four playoff berths in the region.
For the second game in a row, Addington will take the field with an added challenge.
He tore his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in a 34-27 loss to Gibbs on Sept. 14.
The Cougars were up by three touchdowns when Addington exited with the injury, which usually eventually heals on its own and doesn’t require surgery.
“When he went down against Gibbs, just the psyche or mentality of our program changed in one play,” offered Price.
“It’s probably one of the most impactful injuries we’ve had at Campbell County as far as what one guy meant to the team.”
After an off week following the loss to Gibbs, Addington and the Cougars returned to action last Friday against highly regarded Powell.
To play quarterback with a torn MCL is a tall order.
Still, Addington completed 12 of 30 passes for 257 yards as Campbell County dropped a hard-fought 35-21 decision to the one-loss Panthers in a driving rainstorm.
“He went from being a scrambling, dual-threat guy to playing Powell almost as a pocket passer,” said Price.
“I thought he did well, considering the weather and everything.”
Addington, who has completed 113 of 172 passes for 1,575 yards and 12 touchdowns, said he will give it a go once against this week against the Beavers.
“It (his knee) still hurts, but it’s something I can play through,” he said.
“I can’t run as much as I usually do, but I’ve turned into more of a pocket passer, now.”
If anyone can brush aside an injury and improvise his style of play late in the season, Price said it’s Addington.
“The No. 1 thing with Landon is his football IQ,” said Price.
“He plays the game at such a high level mentally and doesn’t put himself in a lot of tough situations.”
Finding a way
Price said the manner that Addington rose to the occasion against Powell was emblematic of his daily struggle with CF.
“The way he responded against Powell sends a message to our team, coaches and football players that not just in football, but life in general, about understanding how you can overcome whatever hits you,” offered Price.
“When adversity faces you, there is a way to get out of it and become better.”
Playing football on one leg and adjusted his style of play is nothing compared to what Addington has overcome just to get on the field.
“Landon’s character is, ‘when I’m faced with a challenge, I’m going to overcome it,’” said Price.
“He doesn’t make excuses. That all goes back to his understanding that ‘I can overcome it, but overcome it in a way I understand my limitations.’”