Special photo Norcross grad Dion DuBose, who returns to the Georgia Southern lineup this weekend, missed more than a year of football after a severe knee injury late in the 2010 season.
As devastating as they are, ACL tears in the knee have become so common and repairs to them have become so efficient, that it's changed our outlook on the injury.
An ACL injury years ago threatened an athlete's career. Now we hear about an athlete suffering the injury, and we expect their return, better than ever, in six months.
With that said, what happened to Dion DuBose wasn't a typical knee injury.
It happened Nov. 13, 2010, when the Norcross grad and his Georgia Southern teammates played Western Carolina. Engaged with a blocker, he was hit low by another player, whose helmet struck directly on DuBose's knee.
The impact grotesquely wrenched his knee and tore the ACL, MCL and PCL. In short, it was a mess.
"I remember sitting in a staff meeting and hearing from a trainer that he may never play football again," Georgia Southern offensive coordinator Brent Davis said this week.
This story, fortunately, has a happy ending. But getting to that point didn't happen quickly.
DuBose, on crutches for months after the repair, missed the entire 2011 football season to a medical redshirt for rehabilitation. He spent a year and a half away from the sport before he was cleared to return for spring practice earlier this year.
On Saturday night, he will play his first game since the injury when the Eagles host Jacksonville.
"It feels real good," DuBose said of playing football again. "It was a long process, but my teammates stood behind me. They got me motivated to get back out there. Watching them practice, watching them work, really motivated me to get back on the field."
Like all of those close to DuBose, Norcross head coach Keith Maloof was devastated. He thought highly of the family, having coached two of the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder's brothers previously.
"It shows what kind of person he is, that he was able to come back," Maloof said. "For me, he was a great leader on and off the football field. I knew he'd come out of it. He's a team player and he's a leader."
DuBose isn't just happy with getting back, though. He wants to regain his old form that made him a defensive star at Norcross, where he made 174 tackles as a senior, and at Georgia Southern. He made the Southern Conference All-Freshman Team in 2008 and led the Eagles with 85 tackles as a sophomore, playing linebacker both seasons.
He switched to defensive end the following season and did well there until the brutal knee injury. He returned to end this year with a strong spring practice that concluded with eight tackles and a sack in the spring game.
"I feel real close to where I was before (the injury), maybe even better," said DuBose, who graduated in May but elected to play his final season.
DuBose begins the next phase of his comeback Saturday when he returns to the starting lineup for a real game. It will be a satisfying moment for him, knowing that he came back from an injury much worse than a typical ACL tear, and an inspiring one for his teammates, who watched him work for more than a year to get back on the field.
"Dion's outstanding, so many kids look up to him and respect him for the way he's worked," Davis said. "As an offensive coach, this camp we couldn't block him. He made plays all over. He plays with a high motor and he means a lot to our defense."
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.