Jacksonville University linebacker Jordan Dewhirst has known the pain of getting seriously hurt; the pain of some serious rehabilitation work and, now, what it's like to be a pain in the backside of opponents.
Dewhirst, of Fort White, Fla., is one of the rarest of creatures, a sixth-year senior, and probably would just as soon wouldn't want that "sixth-year'' in front his class designation.
It came about in a most unfortunate way in the 2013 season-opener game against Delaware when on just his seventh play of the season from his safety position he went down. And hard.
"I dropped deep and the quarterback started scrambling,'' Dewhirst recalled as though the play happened yesterday. "I came back down (to give chase) and he either broke a couple of tackles or there were two missed tackles. "'Dre Addison (former JU secondary star Andre) to the same place at the same time and there were some guys following the quarterback.''
It was about then the season took its nightmare turn.
"I planted my left foot to lead with my shoulder and just as I planted I collided with three or four blockers and there was kind of a pile up,'' he said.
The damage was severe and he was done for the year.
"He dislocated his knee and had a multi-ligament injury,'' JU head trainer for football Doug Frye said. "He tore his ACL, MCL and had a pretty significant bone bruise.'' It was the second season-ending injury he endured as earlier in his JU career he went out with a bad shoulder. Hence, the sixth-year senior designation after another medical redshirt.
After the injury, a six-week laydown for healing was in order before a mid-October surgery and the beginning of the lengthy rehab.
"With the multi-ligament injury, we had to allow some of those things to heal first,'' Frye said. "We had to allow the swelling to go down. The injury occurred at the end of August; we repaired the ACL in mid-October. It was a good month and a half of healing first.''
Frye is amazed at what he has seen.
"Dewhirst is the farthest from being a wimp, but obviously, at the beginning it's tough,'' he said. "All the sudden you're going to your senior year, six minutes into the game and bam the injury occurs. In the beginning, he struggled a little bit as most athletes would. He worked really hard.''
Dewhirst, who was named the Pioneer Football League Defensive Player of the Week this week, still harbors memories of the mending process.
"I rehabbed it one and two times a day,'' he said. "It was really tough, the toughest thing I have done in school. But, it was made a little easier because I stayed here (as opposed to going home to work) and didn't have any distractions.''
JU defensive coordinator Jerry Odom saw the work Dewhirst was putting in and now is seeing the results.
"Jordan's a pretty driven guy and he attacked the rehab just like he attacks everything else,'' Odom said. "Because of that he had himself back in playing shape quickly. He missed spring, but was always in meetings and knew what was going on.''
Dewhirst, who graduated with a degree in sports management in the spring and now is working on a master's in business administration, said he spent the early part of fall practice reacclimating himself before going full bore. The knee, protected by a sturdy brace, has been no issue.
The real test came in the season-opener at Southeastern Louisiana when Dewhirst, playing his first game at linebacker, found himself at the bottom of a pile for the first time back.
"I was crushed under the weight of the pile and it felt fine,'' he said. He played 30-35 plays then and did about the same last week against San Diego and rather enjoys his new position.
"I like the change because I'm remaining active and lining up in front of the free safety,'' he said. "It fits our personnel.''
"We felt like transitioning him to nickel linebacker with his size (6-3 227) helps us coverage-wise, ability wise, smartness, toughness on the edge and he played well,'' Odom said.
Indeed he has and in two games has 11 tackles, two tackles for losses, a forced fumble and an interception.
All the while, the head trainer Frye has been watching like a beaming parent.
"The first game I was a little nervous, maybe some butterflies, but mainly for him getting back out there,'' he said. "His first play is always the scariest. It was a proud moment for all of us to see him out there. This wasn't all on me. He also worked with Andrew Bates, our strength and conditioning coach, Chad Evans, our physical therapist from Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute rehab, our chiropractic staff, our doctors … it was a team effort and hard work.''