One of the scariest injuries of the 2012 season was Michigan tailback Fitz Toussaint leaving the Iowa game on a stretcher, his leg badly injured and requiring immediate surgery. That obviously ended his year, especially as it happened in mid-November (though if it had happened in Week 1, it was still a season-ender).
If you're interested in watching the injury again, the video's here. If not, well, don't click the play button. If you do, it's your fault. You should know what's coming.
With that, and with Michigan coaches revealing nothing about the specifics of Toussaint's injury or his timetable in the ensuing weeks, there were obvious concerns about Toussaint's availability for the 2013 season. And in a backfield that's terribly light on depth and experience without Toussaint, his status for the upcoming season is a major factor in the running game's success as a whole.
Now here's the good news: Fitz Toussaint will be back. Count on it. Here's AnnArbor.com with more on how far Toussaint has come already in his recovery:
Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson said he saw Toussaint running this week and was "shocked" at how well he was moving just three months after breaking his leg.
"Saw him running around -- I was shocked," Jackson said Wednesday. "The kid had a broken leg. Ten years ago, that probably wouldn't have been the case. But he was running around the other day and I don't know if they had him cut, but to me, that's tremendous progress."
Will he be ready for the start of his senior season?
"You know what -- I really do, because when I saw him running around, that was shocking," Jackson said. "He's ahead of schedule, and people in the training room feel good about him. I'm not sure, but you asked me if I expect him (to be ready) -- and I would say yes."
For the record, that's the first time a coach at Michigan has actually disclosed the specific injury Toussaint suffered. But anyway.
Jackson says he doesn't know if Toussaint tried cutting on his leg. Let's assume for the sake of medical caution that he didn't. OK. Even if he doesn't progress to that point in the next two months, which would take him out of spring practices—and we're talking about someone who was running three months after badly breaking his leg—that still gives him four or five more months to progress before the 2013 season actually begins.
He'll be back for that.
That's the thing about rehab: It can turn an athlete going through it into a singularly focused, unstoppable juggernaut. Former LSU star and New York Giants draft pick Chad Jones nearly lost his leg in a horrific car wreck two years ago. He was told immediately he'd never play football again. And yet, per the USA Today, he was working out for the Philadelphia Eagles just last winter.
What Toussaint went through wasn't as bad as Jones' injuries, but it's still worse than what 99 percent of football players ever suffer. But he's in the process of rehabilitation now, and fortunately that's a process that has benchmarks of progress, and small as they might be—walking, squatting, jogging—they're hugely important in keeping the recovering athlete on track. And once that athlete starts meeting those goals and getting in the habit of improving, the sky becomes the limit as to how well he (or she) returns.
Michigan has been smart about keeping Toussaint on that path—per Jackson, Toussaint has been keeping a daily journal about his rehabilitation, and he's "religious" about it—and barring a major, unforeseeable setback in the coming months, he'll be writing "cleared for full contact" in that journal soon enough.
Now, whether Toussaint will start come Week 1 is another issue, because he didn't have that great of a year in 2012 to begin with—he registered just 514 yards in 10 games (nine and one-quarter, if you want to be precise; his injury against Iowa came in the first quarter) and was far off the pace he set in 2011. And while there isn't much experience left in the Michigan backfield with Vincent Smith graduating, Michigan does bring in 5-star tailback Derrick Green as a freshman, and he looks capable of playing immediately. So there's going to be competition there.
It's just great news that Toussaint will be taking part in that competition and not just watching from the sidelines.