AUSTIN, Texas — Roughly one year has gone by since Texas quarterback David Ash was made available to speak with the media, but that drought ended Monday morning.
"How are y'all doing? Did y'all miss me?" Ash joked as he sat down for his first media interview since suffering a concussion against BYU on September 7, 2013.
The redshirt junior is not usually known as a player who is eager to speak with the media. Often times, if he is asked a closed-ended question, he will likely answer it with "Yes" or "No."
But he looked a lot more at ease Monday. Maybe it was a fluke, or maybe it was just his eagerness to start fall camp shining through his answers. But this Ash spoke openly about the struggles he has faced since last season.
"It was hard," Ash said of his head injury. "A concussion is something where nobody sees a cast. Nobody really knows what is going on. It's a tough deal. But that's past, and we're moving on to the future now."
After suffering his initial concussion against BYU, Ash returned in time for the Kansas State game on September 21. He led his team to a 17-7 lead heading into halftime, but he did not return for the second half due to experiencing concussion symptoms.
That was the last time he was seen playing in a game for the Longhorns.
The concussion symptoms lasted for the rest of the season, which caused a lot of speculation about his future as a football player.
"A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up. You need to quit,'" Ash said. "But I honestly never really thought about it. In my mind, I always knew that I was going to play again. I feel like this is where God has placed me. These are the talents He has given me. And whenever I work hard and play hard, I feel like it pleases Him and gives Him glory.
In January, Ash was cleared to return to the team and was expected to compete for the starting role during spring practice. He worked hard to win over head coach Charlie Strong and quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson, but he experienced another bump in the road when he suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot that sidelined him for the last portion of spring ball.
"Oh man, I thought I was off the struggle bus," Ash laughed. "I hopped right back on for a little bit. You get off the struggle bus eventually. I'm off of it now. I'm getting ready, and I'm just thankful to be back."
Ash said he is completely recovered from his Jones fracture and is confident that there will not be any lingering issues from the injury.
"The medical staff, doctors, surgeons did a great job with that whole thing," Ash said. "They got me back as fast as they could and made sure that the broken bone there is sturdy, strong and is not supposed to give me anymore issues."
A lot of questions still surround Ash as he prepares for his redshirt junior season. His injury-prone past will continue to be brought up until he proves he can stay healthy. But he is confident in his ability, and he has taken to heart the advice Strong has given him about staying healthy.
"He has told me that I have to get down. And he's right. I have taken a lot of hits that were not necessary," Ash said about his conversations with Strong. "He made it clear that's not what I have to do in order to play.
"I'm going to start being smarter. I need a little baseball practice to help with sliding, I need to get out of bounds and not take those hits anymore."
Ash said he does not have any expectations for himself other than growing more as a leader and working hard day in and day out. But one of the most important takeaways he learned from his struggles is being grateful for having the opportunity to play football.
"I'm so thankful to get to do this. Nothing is guaranteed. I for sure learned that. I just feel so blessed to get another opportunity to play this game."
All quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow her on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.