- Staff Reporter
- Photo: Desmond Prejean celebrates after sacking Grambling’s Geremy Hickbottom during a game Sept. 8, 2018, at Turpin Stadium. Credit: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services
NATCHITOCHES – On the Northwestern State football team’s first defensive possession of the 2018 home opener against Grambling, Desmond Prejean broke through the Tigers offensive line and dropped quarterback Geremy Hickbottom for a 10-yard sack.
At that point, it appeared a breakout season was on the way for Prejean, then a junior who had worked his way up the NSU depth chart and entered the year as a starting defensive end. While celebrating the big early sack, Prejean’s patellar tendon gave way, putting a premature end to what he and others hoped would be a breakout season for the 6-foot-3, 239-pound lineman from Scott.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Prejean said. “I had worked my tail off to get where I was. I had a great offseason and was looking forward to a good season, not just for me but for our team. I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I knew what it was, I was ready to have surgery, attack the rehab and get back to playing football again.”
While ACL, MCL and meniscus injuries have seen the rate of recovery grow in the past few years, patellar tendon injuries have ended or altered the NFL careers of Cadillac Williams, Jerod Mayo and Victor Cruz.
Surgical procedures have expedited recoveries, but the lower number of patellar tendon injuries leave less of a roadmap to recovery that other knee injuries.
“Probably the biggest part of overcoming the injury was the mental aspect,” said defensive line coach Ledell Love, who has tutored Prejean for the past two seasons. “Patellar tendons injuries have ruined a few careers. He’s been able to lift, able to do some things, but when he’s been sore the next day, it’s been frustrating. There’s not much more frustrating as an athlete than not being able to do what you know you can do.”
Prejean had a minor setback in preseason camp but continued to round into shape.
“It was frustrating and disappointing,” Prejean said. “I went through the rehab. (Associate director of sports medicine) Ashley (Leggett Pugh) and all the athletic trainers got me through the rehab to get me ready for the season. At that point, it was a disappointment. I was still pushing. I know this is my senior year, and I did everything I could to get back on the field with my teammates.”
Prejean pressed on through the first four weeks of the season, building strength in his knee before Love came to him during the Sept. 28 game against Southeastern Louisiana.
For the first time in 385 days, Prejean was headed onto the Turpin Stadium turf to take a meaningful snap.
“It was surreal,” Prejean said. “Once coach Love told me, ‘You’re going in,’ I was nervous about getting back in. Once I got out there, it was football again. I started thinking about what I needed to do and what they were going to do.”
Prejean said although the injury kept him sidelined for more than a full season, it allowed him a chance to view the game from a new perspective.
It also allowed him to impart some of the knowledge he gained to some of his younger teammates.
“It shows those guys your career can get interrupted at any point and you need to take advantage of every opportunity,” Love said. “Those guys can see that. We thought he was going to have a breakout year last year, then he gets hurt after a sack the second game of the year. We were looking forward to having that player the whole season. He’s worked with the younger guys (while he was hurt) and now he has his shot to make plays as well.”
Prejean played three snaps against Southeastern Louisiana and did not record a statistic, but playing time was not at the forefront of Prejean’s mind.
“It definitely wasn’t easy by any means, but it was worth it to get back on that field to play football again,” he said. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through. You have to stay mentally strong through it all. I believe in my God. He’s got me.”
Article sourced from provided press release.