In the summer of 2010, a Gibbs High School baseball star suffered an arm injury that took him away from not only potential college opportunities, but the game he had put all of himself into since he was 8 years old.
The months spent in recovery were brutal, the coming-of-age phase magnified by the sound of crushed dreams.
Despite it all, Morgan Wallen knew it was all part of a greater plan.
"I was wondering what the purpose of it was and questioning God," the now 20-year-old Wallen said in an interview with The Daily Beacon on Thursday. "I dwelled on it for a couple months, but after that I tried to be positive about everything and figured there was a better plan for my life in some way."
And it turned out there was. The injury that threatened Wallen's youthful aspirations gave him a new one, or rather, an old one: music.
Wallen and his raspy country rock joined Team Usher on season six of NBC's singing competition "The Voice" in the blind audition that aired this past Tuesday night.
A Sneedville, Tenn., native, Wallen began singing when he was around 3 years old. His mom recognized his growing musical ability and sent him straight to church, where he sang "Jesus Loves Me," among other Gospel songs.
Wallen soon advanced from the church to local contests, several of which he won. At age 8, he competed in a Gospel singing competition and was subsequently offered a recording contract, which he and his parents turned down.
"My mom knew I was also interested in baseball, and she thought I wouldn't give (singing) my all," Wallen said. "She wanted me to have a normal childhood."
After adolescent years full of baseball tournaments and offseason training, Wallen's injury gradually returned him to his childhood hobby. But he was still pretty low-key about his talent, writing the occasional song or performing for a few friends that praised his ability.
When he began receiving heaps of praise regarding his vocal talent, however, Wallen, or rather, his mom, decided to take the first step toward doing something with it.
She signed him up online for "The Voice" and offered to drive him to St. Louis for the open call audition. Wallen was game.
After the auditions were over, Wallen received the call that would bring a southern-drawling good ole boy to the glittering world of Los Angeles. Just before he took the stage to face the coaches' turned-around chairs, the nerves set in.
He took a minute to calm himself, and then emerged on the stage to raspily croon Howie Day's 2003 hit, "Collide." Within 30 seconds, Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira had pressed her button, much to the excitement of his "hootin and hollerin'" family backstage.
"It was instant relief," Wallen said. "I knew I didn't have to worry anymore."
The relief was compounded by Usher's late-in-the-game button push that led to "the claws coming out," according to third "Voice" coach Adam Levine as he pouted in coach Blake Shelton's lap.
Though both Usher and Shakira made a convincing case for Wallen to join their respective teams, Usher won out, due largely to Wallen's baseball background.
"I always liked a coach who didn't pat me on the back or was satisfied with my performance," Wallen said. "I always wanted them to want more from me. (Usher) had criticism for me and my performance. He said there were issues, but it was good. I knew that was what I wanted to hear."
And so begins a new dream for Wallen, one a little more star-studded than the last, but one he said he will pursue despite the show's outcome.
"It's what I love," Wallen said. "I've met a couple people already back home that (want to work with me) if this doesn't propel my career forward enough. I want to go back home and maybe get a band together and start performing around the area.
"But I just want to see what happens here first."