As Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio picked himself up and off the field, he reached for his collarbone before slowly making his way to the sidelines.
An X-ray confirmed Del Rio’s fear: his left collarbone was broken, which meant season-ending surgery once again for Florida’s redshirt junior quarterback. Coach Jim McElwain confirmed Del Rio’s injury following UF’s 38-24 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, adding the redshirt junior will have surgery Monday before a recovery timetable is established.
“Injury-wise, Luke will be done,” McElwain said. “It’s hard. I think he was the one that told you he had never been through a season on a team that only used one quarterback. So, that’s exactly right. I just feel horrible for him.”
Feleipe Franks replaced Del Rio in the second quarter and helped lead Florida to their third consecutive win. The redshirt freshman would go on to complete 10 of his 14 passes for 185 yards, but Franks’ thoughts after the game were with his fellow signal-caller rather than consumed with the conference win.
“You want to play for somebody, and that was one of the persons I wanted to play for, because he’s done nothing but support me and help me the whole time I’ve been here at Florida,” Franks said. “It hurts. I know it hurts him and it also hurts me.”
For many Gators, the injury brought back painful memories of Del Rio’s suffering in 2016. After leading Florida to a 3-0 start, Del Rio missed the next two games with a shoulder injury before returning to lead UF to victories over Missouri and Georgia.
But then came the season-ending injury against Arkansas, followed by a consistent regimen of rest and rehabilitation. It was hard for his teammates to think that the months of rebuilding Del Rio went through had been erased with one fell swoop.
“I just found out after the game that Luke was out for the season,” linebacker Kylan Johnson said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I hate it for him.”
Rather than letting the injury kill the momentum, however, the quarterback inserted into emergency action found a way to keep Del Rio on the forefront of his mind during the second-half surge. Considering the journey he went through to return to the field this season, all anyone could think to do was wish and pray for Del Rio’s timely return.
“I wrote ‘Luke’ under my little wristband (at halftime). I’m praying for him and his family. It’s tough when you go out there and take a big hit like that and get hurt,” Franks said. “We’re feeling for him. All we can do is pray for him. Hopefully he gets a speedy recovery.”