"It was tough," Juke King said, recalling that March afternoon. "When I first got injured I thought my career was over. But since then I haven't let myself think that way. I'm working hard and I'm bouncing back.
"My knee is getting stronger every day."
There are knee injuries and then there are knee injuries. Unfortunately, King's fell on the more serious end of the continuum. The linebacker/fullback tore his ACL, MCL and also some tendons connecting his hamstring muscles to the bone.
Knee injuries involving ligament damage can take anywhere from four to six months to heal. And obviously the more damage that's involved, the longer rehabilitation required. "The doctors are telling me that I'm way ahead of schedule," King said last week. "It's a big surprise to everyone that I'm even able to jog right now."
King's surgery was performed on March 10th, immediately after the injury. Since then he's been a fixture in the Tide training room, working with Head Trainer Rodney Brown to rehab the knee. Afterwards, he heads to the weight room to ride the stationary bike and work on his upper body.
"We're two months into the rehab," King related. "Right now there's no real pain for the most part. But when I try to run at a certain speed, I feel it. At this point my knee won't let me bend as far as I need to, so I can't go full speed."
After redshirting his first year on campus, King worked last season at both outside linebacker and fullback. He saw action as a back-up versus Vanderbilt and LSU. Since Alabama practiced in the spring without a fullback, King worked exclusively at linebacker until his injury.
"When it first happened I was worried about being able to come back," King recalled. "Those thoughts go through your head. When it happened I knew I had torn something. At first I thought my career may be over, but the doctor told me I could come back. When I heard that I was happy."
Advances in medical science have revolutionized the way sports injuries are treated. But even so every athlete that has undergone reconstructive knee surgery remembers the pain. "The pain lasted for about two weeks," King said. "I didn't take any pain pills or anything. I just fought through it, and the pain went away."
Counting six months forward from his surgery date, the Tide doctors told King he should be full speed again my mid-September. "They originally told me September 10th, but since I'm way ahead of schedule I'm thinking that I'll be back before then," King said. "I'm thinking within the next few weeks I'll be able to start running, so I can work with the squad when summer term starts."
Obviously King is pushing as hard as he can, hoping to be ready in time to prepare for the season opener. But he's not going to do anything stupid.
King commented, "Things are going pretty good. I'm happy. Maybe I'll be able to come back earlier than they predicted. If I'm ready to play, then I'll get out there. But you have to listen to your body. How I feel will determine how quickly I come back."
With a new head coach and offensive coordinator on board, both of whom would prefer to utilize a fullback, the question is obvious. Will King be a linebacker or fullback next season?
"Right now I think I'll stay at linebacker," he replied. "I think Coach (Joe) Kines likes me pretty much. I think I'll be a linebacker."