Despite injury, UF's Rolin in right frame of mind
Published: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.
When Ronald Powell runs out of the tunnel Saturday and onto Florida Field, he will reach the end of a 16-month journey in which he had two surgeries on his anterior cruciate ligament without playing a game.
Another Florida linebacker is going through the same nightmare he's finally waking up from.
Matt Rolin's senior season of high school ended in November of last year when he, like Powell, tore the ACL in his left knee.
The Under Armour All-American enrolled at UF in January and rehabbed his injury throughout the spring. Just one week into fall training camp, he had established himself as Powell's backup at strongside linebacker.
“He was going to contribute,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “He was doing really well with the snaps he had. We think he's a terrific player.
“You watch high school tape on him and you think you know what you're going to get, but you don't quite know till you get out there on the field. We saw it and we were excited about it.”
But the Gators were only able to get a glimpse of his ability.
During a non-contact drill in practice Aug. 8, Rolin planted on his left knee and re-tore his ACL.
“It's just disheartening for something like this to happen,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “You don't always know why. But as I always tell the guys, 10 percent is what happens to you, 90 percent is what you do with it.
“So much of it is having a positive attitude. You can't be negative about it. There's nothing that's going to change what happened. He's still got a tremendous future at the University of Florida and will be a really good football player.”
Judging by Rolin's social media accounts, he's already in the right frame of mind.
“It's all part of God's plan,” Rolin wrote on his Instagram shortly after the injury. “He tested me once ... I overcame it. He's testing me again, and I'll overcome it again.”
Rolin couldn't ask for better resources to help him in his comeback. For one, his surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews, who has repaired the knees of Robert Griffin III, Marcus Lattimore, Adrian Peterson and many other professional athletes.
“Dr. Andrews is the gold standard in that field,” said Rolin's father, Mike. “It was a combination of both the Florida training staff, the team surgeon and myself making sure he got the best care we possibly could get for him.”
Rolin returned to Gainesville over the weekend to begin his five fall classes and another grueling recovery. This time around, however, he's better prepared for it.
“He's gone through the process before unfortunately, but also fortunately, he at least knows what to expect and how to get through it,” Durkin said. “He's also got a great resource on the team in Ronald Powell, who has gone through two of those.”
Powell has already reached out to Rolin and given him advice, and the two had formed a brotherly-type relationship even before this month.
“Matt Rolin is somebody who is in my heart because he's going through the same things I went through with the second one,” Powell said. “I know where he's at. Being so close to playing ball again and losing it is not a place a ballplayer wants to be. I'm definitely passionate about that guy.
“I didn't have anybody that went through what I went through. He has me. I can tell him exactly where my mind was, the type of things that I went through, what not to second guess yourself on, how to take it on full fledge and keep continuing to grow from it instead of letting it hold you down.”
Rolin's father thanked Powell for being a role model to his son, and he believes Matt will attack his rehab and “knock it out of the park.”
“It's definitely tough, back-to-back ACL tears, but Matt knows his ability,” Rolin said. “He knows he can come back and he knows there are plenty of people in front of him in the NFL and in college that have had two ACL tears and came back successfully. So that's his mindset.
“He came out of the recovery room and Dr. Andrews and the nursing staff woke him up from surgery. His first words were, 'When's rehab?' ”