TAMPA, Fla. – USL League One today announced that South Georgia Tormenta FC midfielder Adrian Billhardt was voted the 2022 USL League One Comeback Player of the Year presented by Shift4. In the award’s first iteration, the Comeback Player of the Year recognizes a player’s ability to overcome injury, poor performance or off-field adversity during the previous season and make significant on-field contributions in the 2022 League One regular season.
After sustaining a season-ending knee injury in May 2021, Adrian Billhardt went on to miss 24 matches of his first season as a professional during his recovery period. Recovering in time to start the 2022 season, the 1. FC Union Berlin youth product finished with the most assists (5) and chances created (49) on the team to go along with a career-best five goals in 30 matches.
“Generally, in life, it’s not about what happens to you but how you react to it and that was my approach. Ever since I had to deal with this injury, I knew that this was a life changing moment that could ultimately make me stronger. I really tried to approach it in a positive way and keep a positive mindset, and I credit that approach as a big reason for my individual and team success.
“This honor means so much to me. I wouldn’t have this award without the help and support of my teammates and coaches all season long, and the entire organization deserves recognition for this award. I’m very happy that this season played out the way that it did – it truly was lifechanging and incredible to me. Now, though, the focus shifts to the final on Sunday.”
Billhardt began his career in his native Berlin with Berliner FC Dynamo and 1. FC Union Berlin before playing collegiately overseas at the University of South Florida. From Tampa, Billhardt ended up in Statesboro where he competed in USL League Two with South Georgia Tormenta FC 2 before signing his first professional contract with Tormenta FC’s first team in February 2021.
"Throughout his career, Adrian has always displayed amazing professionalism with regards to preparing his body to be an elite athlete,” Tormenta FC Head Coach Ian Cameron said. “So, when the injury happened, we all knew his physical recovery would be a challenge he'd overcome. However, those that have been around players with this injury all know the mental side is where the real challenge sits. How do you stay present with teammates, with coaches? How do you continue to add value to an organization and not feel sorry for yourself?
“What we witnessed Adrian do with this obstacle was make it a positive inflection point in his career and general approach to being a leader. He remained present throughout, he made others around him better, and he too grew as a person in this hard window of time. Out of that recovery came a guy with the same ability, the same physical properties, but an enhanced mindset. It's been a privilege to observe."
Billhardt finished first on the ballot to earn the award. Greenville's Nate Shultz finished second with 49 interceptions and three assists in his first season playing professionally since 2019, while Chattanooga's Daniel Navarro finished third with one goal and 12 blocks after missing the first half of the regular season. The League One Comeback Player of the Year award is voted on by the USL League One Technical Committee.
USL League One Comeback Player of the Year presented by Shift4
2022 – Adrian Billhardt, South Georgia Tormenta FC
2022 USL League One Awards
Goalkeeper of the Year: Rashid Nuhu, Union Omaha
Defender of the Year: Arthur Rogers, Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC
Young Player of the Year: Ethan Bryant, Richmond Kickers
Comeback Player of the Year: Adrian Billhardt, South Georgia Tormenta FC
Coach of the Year: Thursday, Nov. 3
Most Valuable Player: Friday, Nov. 4