Florida Gators head football coach Jim McElwain went as far as saying it’s a miracle that senior linebacker Antonio Morrison will be able to return to the field when the Gators host New Mexico State to kick off the 2015 season.
The last time Morrison was in a football game he laid on the artificial turn of Legion Field, screaming and writing in pain with a significant knee injury. Morrison’s future was ahead of him. He had yet to decide whether he would return to Florida for his senior season or leave school early for the NFL.
His father — Antonio Morrison Sr. — approached his distraught son in the locker room midway through the Birmingham Bowl and asked Antonio if this was the last time he would wear the Orange and Blue. When his son didn’t have an answer, it was time for some fatherly advice.
“He said ‘I don’t know.’ And I told him, there’s your answer right there, go get a shower, get your clothes on and get out there and support your team,” Morrison Sr. told Gatorcountry.com.
The rehab process began right then and there. In sweatpants and on crutches, Morrison returned to the sideline to be with his teammates. Little did he know he would end up being an inspiration to every player he shares a locker room with.
“It’s actually scary how fast he made it back,” senior defensive back Brian Poole said of Morrison. “He put in the hours in the training room and it’s great to see him back. It’s definitely inspirational.”
While the people around him have marveled, Morrison has had to keep his head down and work. Coming back from knee surgery isn’t easy, the days are long, the progress slow and too look to far ahead into the future could lead to pushing through your rehabilitation process to quickly and potentially re-injuring yourself.
“I just looked at the day, you know what I’m saying. I didn’t look too far ahead. I just wanted to get better each and every day, whatever happened, happened,” Morrison said. “I don’t think it’s a miracle. I put the work in. I got a great doctor, great training staff, best in the country. I’m here now.”
Morrison is expected to start at middle linebacker this Saturday. It will be just eight months and two days since the Birmingham Bowl. He may shrug off the compliments that his team gives him as far as being an inspiration or a leader; he definitely dismissed McElwain’s comment that it’s a miracle.
For him, this isn’t a miracle.
Morrison can vividly remember every single moment he spent working to get back to this point and, in his mind, getting back for the first game isn’t a miracle, it’s just what he knew he had to do.
“With my work ethic,” he said. “I didn’t think it was tough and now I’m ready to go.”