Thomas Brown, Georgia’s senior running back, is glad he tore his ACL in the sixth game of 2006, he said. Really, that’s what he said.
“It was kind of a chance to start all over again,” Brown said. “I could work on some of the problems I had before.”
Brown’s biggest problem, he said, was impatience – the unwillingness to wait for a play to develop. The result was a running back who found contact more than he avoided.
Now, less than 10 months after suffering a devastating injury, Brown is back at practice with the Bulldogs a more mature running back who is ready to hit 2007 full speed, he said.
“I feel stronger, faster, quicker, everything,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.”
As soon after the injury as Brown could be, he was in the Bulldogs’ training room. After that, of course, he was back in the weight room. Already the strongest player pound-for-pound on the team, he added 14 pounds during his rehabilitation.
He will play this year at a career-high 202 pounds. He didn’t test his maximum bench press this summer but did press 455 pounds for two repetitions. He also squatted 500 pounds three times.
“He was on a mission,” strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger said.
When Brown was hurt, there were questions about whether he would return this season or wait another year to make sure his knee was fully healed. None of those questions came from Brown, though. He never considered missing 2007.
“I heard all the negativity going through the process, people telling me I need to take a year off because I’m not going to be ready,” he said. “I kind of did my own research and saw how quickly I could come back from it.”
What he saw said seven months, and that was all he needed to see.
“Because it’s Thomas I’m not that surprised,” said head coach Mark Richt. “He understands that a lot of it is between the ears. You have to work and rehab, and get ready but once your body gets to a point of where you’re ready to play physically, it takes a little time mentally to feel comfortable.”
Brown is mentally already full speed, Richt said. Georgia’s first contact of the fall willcome Thursday, and Brown can’t wait.
“I’m going to throw my knee in there and roll with it like I did before,” he said. “It’s all about how you think about it. I just thought about, ‘I’m going to come back better than I was before and the first day I get to come out there and prove myself, I’m going to go at it full speed.’ I’m not going to be timid.”
Brown needs 714 rushing yards this season to end his career in Georgia’s top five in career yardage. In his two healthy seasons, he averaged 806 yards.
He entered the fall second on Georgia’s running back depth chart, but that ranking is virtually meaningless. Brown, fellow senior Kregg Lumpkin, redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno and true freshman Caleb King all will get a chance to start.
Most of the preseason attention will focus on the newcomers Moreno and King, but that’s fine with Brown. He can wait, he said, for the Sept. 1 season opener against Oklahoma State to take back the spotlight.
“Anytime somebody new comes in, that’s going to be a hot topic,” he said. “I want to prove myself more about the ACL than that. I want to prove to be people that I’m back and better than ever.”
Senior running backs Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin haven’t had breakout Georgia careers, but both have a realistic chance of finishing in the Bulldogs’ top five in career rushing yardage despite the fact that each lost time due to torn knee ligaments. Below is a look at that top five and where Brown and Lumpkin stand heading into the 2007 season.
1. Herschel Walker 5,259 yards
2. Garrison Hearst 3,232 yards
3. Lars Tate 3,017 yards
4. Rodney Hampton 2,668 yards
5. Kevin McLee 2,581 yards
Carries Yards Yards per carry
Thomas Brown 381 1,867 4.9
Kregg Lumpkin 340 1,656 4.9