The injury list from The Penn-Cornell football game in Ithaca, N.Y., on Nov. 19 unfortunately included a photographer on assignment for SI, John D. Hanlon. Midway through the second quarter, two Cornell defenders crashed into a Penn receiver as he went out of bounds, and the three players tumbled toward Hanlon. "They were coming at me fast," he says. "I just threw my cameras and dove." But Hanlon couldn't dive far enough. His left leg became entangled in the pile of players and was broken in two places.
While covering a variety of sports over the past 20 years, Hanlon has been lucky to avoid injury. "I've been hit by baseballs and hockey pucks," he says, "but nothing serious ever happened to me." At least not until now. Four days after Hanlon's leg was fractured, doctors removed the temporary cast and put a 14-inch metal rod inside his tibia—the shinbone—where it will remain for two or three years. Its purpose is to support the bone and eliminate the need for a cast. Hanlon will be on crutches for at least two months and won't be able to work for six.
Hanlon has had a passion for photography since grammar school. "I liked sports, but I wasn't good enough to make the teams," he says. "So I took pictures instead." He began taking pictures for SI when he was attending St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. He became a staff photographer in 1971 but resigned in 1975 in order to move with his wife, Sylvia, from Long Island to Canandaigua, a town in New York's Finger Lakes region. His departure didn't change things much; the vast majority of his work as a freelancer has been for SI.
While Hanlon is recovering, we will miss him, in part for reasons these anecdotes illuminate: Even while Hanlon lay on the sideline in pain, he kept his focus on his job; his main concern was getting SI staff photographer John Iacono, who was also shooting the game, to take care of his film for him. Later, in the emergency room, Hanlon insisted that his wife call his photo editor at TIME and tell her about the injury. Hanlon was scheduled to shoot the Jets-Bills game for our sister publication the next day. "I knew they needed to find someone else for the job," he says.
That dedication was one cause of his injury. "I didn't bail out right away," he says. "I hung in there and made my picture." Hanlon says that the first thing he will do next fall is go back to the football field and shoot from the sidelines again. "I don't ever want to be gun-shy," he says. "I just want to get out of there a little quicker."