Florida's comeback kids
Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 11:47 p.m.
Sixth-year senior receiver Andre Debose was one of the first players to arrive Sunday at Touchdown Terrace in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for Florida football media day.
He walked in the room and headed toward the interview tables to his right, which were lined up side-by-side in the shape of an L.
Debose located his name card in the corner after searching for a few moments, but he was outside of the seating arrangements.
Rather than walk all the way back around to get to his chair, Debose took a few running steps and — without hesitation — jumped over the table, clearing it cleanly with a couple feet to spare.
Not bad for a guy who tore his ACL a year ago.
“I'm feeling good,” Debose said once he sat down to take questions.
His attitude and acrobatics are good news for the Gators.
Debose was one of 17 players who suffered season-ending injuries in 2013. Three of those players, including Debose, missed all 12 games.
The injury bug didn't discriminate, affecting everyone from starters to true freshmen before the season started until the final game of the year.
Debose hurt his left knee in training camp on Aug. 6.
“It was the hardest thing I've ever experienced,” he said. “Going through a 4-8 season was obviously bad, but imagine having to sit helplessly and watch it from the sidelines.
“Seeing my senior class, my peers and guys I came into college with have their final year go that way was really tough.”
For quarterback Jeff Driskel, whose season ended when he broke his fibula against Tennessee, the hardest part was missing that first road game the following week at Kentucky.
“I had been to every away game since I was in school,” he said. “Having to stay home on a Saturday not able to walk was probably my lowest point.”
Driskel did his best to find positives during his time away from football, such as what he'll do with his life after he's done playing the sport. His “mentality shift” helped the recovery process go by faster, but it didn't necessarily make it easier.
“Injuries are part of the game, we all know that,” Driskel said. “But you never think it's going to happen to you. It's kind of a humbling moment when they tell you, 'You're done for the year.'
“You realize football is not always going to be there. That's something you hear, but you don't buy into it until you're not able to play. I think that's the biggest thing I learned. It was still hard, though.”
Driskel also gained more hunger and passion for the game. He and 12 other Gators who went down last year are back this season with their injuries healed and bodies at full strength.
They also have a special bond among themselves, according to running back Matt Jones. He missed all of fall camp and the season opener with a viral infection, then he tore his meniscus against LSU and sat out the rest of the year.
“For the guys who got injured, we kind of got a chemistry going after not being able to play last season and just being around one another. We stuck together,” Jones said.
“It wouldn't have been as difficult if we were winning, but we watched our team go down the drain and we couldn't do anything about it. That drove all of us this summer to make the team better. We feel good about this year.
“I'm just happy I can play football again.”
So is the table-hopping Debose.
“I'm really happy,” he said. “Just to be back running around and part of the team again. With the athletes we have, we can get the job done. We just have to stay healthy.”