Quentin Sock spent a week at home with a broken face because the surgeon couldn’t operate on someone who was drunk. The 6-foot-4 forward for the St. Thomas University men’s basketball team, was hit in the face by a tomahawk, while in fight at a party in Elsipogtog First Nation. The axe broke his orbital bone, nose and down near his teeth.
“It’s a really good reminder that I’m doing the right thing. I can keep doing this for the rest of my life or doing what I was doing before,” said the 29-year-old. “So in one way the shot to the face really helped me out.”
The second-year student plans on majoring in Native Studies. But he wasn’t always a goal driven student.
In 2005 he began try outs for the UNB Varsity Reds. Sock blew out his ankle, which left him unable to play ball for 15 months, and his life spiraled into partying and drinking.
“My low point was probably four years ago. I had no goals, no ambition. I was drinking. I was partying as much as I can, As long as I can,” said Sock. “It would go for weeks. I had no job.”
In 2011, Sock and some friends went out to a bar, and a fight broke out, leaving two men hospitalized. He and his friends were charged and Sock was sentenced to one-year probation. Later that year, he was partying when another fight broke out. That’s when a man hit him with a tomahawk. They continued to fight and when it was done, Sock was covered in blood. His friends wrapped his tattered face in a sweater and got him help.
“I had no idea [I had been hit] so we called my folks and they rushed me over to the hospital, where they told me they couldn’t operate on me because I smelled like booze and they weren’t allowed to operate if I was drunk,” said Sock.
They stitched him up and sent him home. He spent a week with a broken face at his girlfriend’s house reflecting on life, and the decisions that got him there. After, a week he went back and had surgery. He now has metal plates running from the inside of his eye, one plate running mid-nose to mid-cheek, and another plate running from his temple to his cheek.
“I looked up at the ‘wife,’ and said ‘something has to change and something has to go.’ ‘So I turned my life around, and I stopped drinking.”
After his recovery, he knew he wanted to play basketball again. Sock had been playing ball since he was 15, and wanted to make another run at it. He ran into St. Thomas coach Dwight Dickinson, at a home game, and Dickinson encouraged him to come try out.
Sock was 250 pounds for his first practice and his old wound made it difficult to breathe, because one nostril is still messed up.
“Breathing through the nose I have to take deeper breaths, longer breaths, so it takes me a bit more time to recover, and breathing is different,” said Sock.
After the second practice he decided to lose weight. He dropped down to 215 and he made the team.
“It wasn’t until I got tossed the number 15 jersey at the game that I felt it was starting to be real. And then when I caught a pass at the top of the three-point line and pulled up and made the shot… it became real. And I have been riding that great feeling since and that was over two years ago,” said Sock. “I went from being close to death to feeling more alive than I ever felt before.”
He hopes to one day teach Mi’kmaq and Maliseet languages and that the St. Thomas University courses offered in Elsipogtog First Nation are expanded. He wants to be a mentor for young natives, and feels real change can be made if more First Nation’s students receive a post-secondary education. Sock’s advice to students is to set goals early, because after he’s done school he hopes to pursue another dream of his.
“I may enter the combine for the Canadian basketball league in Ottawa,” said Sock. “I promised myself I would play one year professionally before I give up, and the Canada league is probably the best shot I’ve got.”
Sock reflects on the fact someone tried to kill him, especially when it’s cold. Low pressure systems cause his face to hurt, but he would much rather focus on his goals.
“It often reminds me that life is too short to spend angry, and how I should be pursuing my goals.”