The way Tim Skipper and Jim McElwain talked just days before the Florida Gators season opener against Michigan you wouldn’t have expected redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson to play.
Johnson had tweaked his hamstring early on in fall camp but, at the time of the injury, McElwain speculated that Johnson wouldn’t be out for long. Then, as hamstring injuries can and often do, it lingered.
“You kind of have two plans,” linebacker coach Tim Skipper said before the Michigan game. “You’re either subbing him in and out or your not. We have that already built in. we’ll get to game day and see which direction we need to go.”
Johnson injured the same hamstring, his right, last year while playing against Tennessee. He used that as a learning experience and he’s changed the way he’s protected the injury and rehabilitated it this season.
“I don’t let it bother me,” Johnson said of the injury that sidelined him for the entirety of camp. “I treat it. I stay in the training room and just hope nothing happens.”
Unable to go through drills Johnson spent more time analyzing the defense from the sidelines at practice. He spent more time in his playbook and more time watching films. Instead of focusing on the things he couldn’t do, he turned his attention to the things that he could.
His hamstring progressed, slowly, but it started to take a turn for the better before the Gators left for Dallas.
I feel like I was ready. My hamstring felt good. I could go in there and help the team out. I mean I wasn’t scared or anything. I knew nothing was going to happen. I felt pretty good.”
Hamstring injuries have the tendency to linger. Fans only have to think back to Keanu Neal, who dealt with hamstring injuries throughout his three seasons in Gainesville. Fans may worry about Johnson’s health status but the linebacker can’t let any fear or doubt creep into his mind when he’s on the field.
“If I worry about it I might not play as hard or be as good as I can be,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t let it bother me. I treat it. I stay in the training room and just hope nothing happens.”