Army's Viti plays through the pain

Army fullback Mike Viti plays through pain that would leave most players on the injured reserved. That's all Mike Viti knows. Because Viti's played through excruciating pain on two reconstructed knees for most of his career. "Mike is the toughest player I've ever had," said Pennsylvania football coaching legend George Curry.

Curry stepped down as Berwick High School's coach last November after going 387-83-5 and winning six state titles in 39 seasons.

"All players have a threshold for pain," Curry adds. "Mike doesn't feel pain."

Truth is, Viti, a junior, could be one the toughest players to put on an Army uniform. He likely won't score any touchdowns this fall, in fact, his primary job will be to block.

Mike Viti lays down a damn good block.

The highlight of watching game film for some Army coaches last fall became watching Viti's devastating blocks and the aftermath. Viti's best work came during the Black Knights' historic 27-24 win at Air Force last November. He abused the Falcons, leading the way for 146 rushing yards by running back Carlton Jones and Army's first win in Colorado Springs, Colo. since 1977.

"We traded some pretty good blows," said Air Force linebacker Drew Fowler after the game. "But (Viti) was tough, probably the best fullback I squared up against all season. He really brought it."

Viti plays in constant pain. He ices his legs and undergoes treatment after every practice and game. He sleeps with his legs elevated to alleviate pain. The other option?

Not being able to walk the next day. Viti started slow last season as he battled swelling and pain in both knees. He improved after receiving gel injections in his knees similar to New York Yankees pitcher Randy Johnson. Viti tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in September of his senior year. Despite the injury, he played for another month, before the knee finally gave out. Viti even wrestled for Berwick as a senior in the heavyweight division (275 pounds). He started the year 23-0, but his knee went again.

Schools like Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and West Virginia recruited Viti. They gave up on him after the injury. So Viti came to Army. He had just four months to prepare for Beast Barracks, but Viti's knee survived the grueling training and the early part of the 2004 season. However, Viti didn't tell Army football coach he felt a pinch in his right knee in October of his freshman year because he didn't want to miss Army-Navy.

A postseason MRI revealed he had no cartilage left in it. Viti underwent cleanup surgery in January. The other option was a meniscus transplant. Instead, he plays without a meniscus in his right knee.

Ross will go with sophomore Tim Frye on third-down and goal line plays, in part, because of Viti's knees.

But Viti takes pride in his blocking and he will keep battling. No matter how much pain he's in.


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