By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- These are the days when Shenandoah University football coach Paul Barnes is normally starting to shift into high gear, preparing the Hornets for their inaugural season as members of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
Instead, Barnes has been limited mostly to his home this week as he recovers from surgery after injuring his back last week. A full-time return to his coaching duties might not come for up to four weeks.
"I was building a retaining wall with my son," the 53-year-old Barnes said. "Sometimes you think you're Superman."
After a long day working on that wall, Barnes decided to move just one last wooden beam.
"When you're tired you're stubborn and you do it," Barnes said. "I felt it -- it was a small twinge, but everything in my legs, the sciatic nerves, were hurting."
An MRI on Friday revealed fragments from compressed discs in his spine, and Barnes underwent surgery on Tuesday.
Now Barnes, who never previously had back issues, is looking at a long road toward a full recovery.
"It's a day-by-day thing," Barnes said. "Basically, it could be anywhere from two to three to four weeks, depending on how I progress through rehab. Right now they just want me getting up and down for the first week, getting settled.
"The second week, go a little bit farther -- we've talked about going to practice, and sitting and standing. It's just that I can't sit in one place very long. I have to stand."
For the time being, defensive coordinator Brock McCullough will lead the day-to-day operations. Even if he won't be on the sidelines for a while, Barnes will still take an active role in preparing the Hornets for their season opener on Sept. 1 at Stevenson. Shenandoah is coming off a 6-4 season that included a third-place finish in its final season competing in the USA South Conference.
"We film all the practices, so I can watch the film through our editing system," Barnes said. "But I will be there. I've been with this staff for so long, I have complete faith that they know what they're doing, and they have. They know what we want, they know what we're about team-wise, the goals that we set and the philosophy.
"I'm very confident with it, so I'm going to take my time with this thing because if I rush with it, it could hurt me down the road."
The Hornets' home opener is Sept. 8 against former USA South rival Ferrum. Shenandoah opens ODAC play on the road against Bridgewater on Sept. 22.
Barnes doesn't plan on missing any of those games.
"I should be back by the first game, full-strength [my doctors] say," Barnes said.
Barnes announced on Friday the addition of Brian Wetzel to his coaching staff.
A 2012 Allegheny College graduate, Wetzel joins the Hornets after playing two years of football at Allegheny and then coaching at Gar-Field High School in 2010 and 2011.
Wetzel will coach wide receivers and also work with special teams for the Hornets.