Just when things couldn’t be going any better for former Charter Oak High School running back Adam Muema, it all came crashing down.
Muema, while attending a party at a home in Covina last May, intervened in a fight taking place between the home’s owner and some unwanted guests. Next thing he knew, he was on his way to an emergency room after somebody hit him on the head with a baseball bat.
“I fell, but I didn’t black out or anything,” Muema said. “It felt like I got punched in the face. I was ready to fight, actually, but my friend looked at me right after and said, `We have to get you to the hospital.’ ”
Muema received stitches and was told by a doctor he needed to follow up with an optometrist because of injuries he suffered to his left eye. The 2009 Tribune Player of the Year’s problems were just beginning.
Muema’s vision in his left eye began to rapidly deteriorate. After being seen by an eye specialist, Muema was told he had a macular hole in the retina of his left eye for which surgery was required.
A month before graduation from Charter Oak and two months before the beginning of his college career at San Diego State, Muema’s football playing days suddenly were in doubt.
“I had to wait for my insurance to get approved and I finally had surgery on June 21,” Muema said. “For my eye to get better, I had to keep my head down.”
The procedure required fluid to be drained from his eye socket so a gas bubble could be placed behind his eye to apply pressure to the back of his retina. He was given special equipment to keep his head down, including a mirror that would allow to him reflect the picture from his television so he could watch TV.
“I actually had the doctor tell me I might not be able to play contact sports anymore,” Muema said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 4. It’s my love.”
At Charter Oak, Muema led the Chargers to two CIF Southeast Division championships and rushed for 1,938 yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior season.
The legend of Muema’s athletic abilities still elicits awe from his former coaches and former teammates. But without a proper vision there’s no way he could be expected to compete at the college level.
Muema quickly fell out of shape and lost 20 pounds and most of his endurance.
But with a chance to redshirt, he sprung into action after being given clearance by his doctors.
Muema joined the Aztecs after Week 3 of the season and was able to take contact in practice.
“I’ve still got it,” Muema said. “It was a blessing.”
Offseason workouts are going well for Muema, who said he’s now one of the strongest players on the team. Cracking the Aztecs’ backfield rotation won’t be easy, especially after the strong season turned in by freshman tailback Ronnie Hillman.
But no matter what happens in the coming four years, Muema already has learned a valuable life lesson about how fast things can unravel.
He also learned another when given a shot at revenge against those who chose to use a bat as a means to end a fist fight.
A week before leaving for San Diego last summer, Muema was at another party where his assailants also were attending. Despite possessing the type of frame that few people would want any part of in a street fight, Muema chose not to make the situation worse.
“I didn’t want any trouble,” Muema said. “Well, I did, but I didn’t want to do anything before I came down here. I knew it was them the whole time I was there. They looked over at me and I just left.
“I was angry. But you see, I’ve got a lot going and they probably have nothing better to do but tag or something.”