Debose is Happy Again

It has been a rough nine months or so for Andre Debose. The 5-star recruit that signed with Florida in the class of 2009 was sidelined for his entire freshman football season with an injury that eventually required surgery. With only a few days left in the spring, Debose was finally allowed to participate in contact drills…something he has looked forward to during the entire healing process.

It isn't easy for an elite athlete that has never had any kind of major injury issue to suddenly have to hang the cleats up for a long period of time. When that sudden change also lends itself to thoughts of possibly never being able to play again, it is a terrible thing.

Florida receiver Andre Debose has rehabilitated his hamstring injury for months now and all the hard work paid off earlier this week when he was able to have full contact with defenders at practice. Saturday, he caught two passes for 30 yards, but the Gator crowd on hand got to see a glimpse of what Debose can do.

Debose is just happy to be back doing what he loves to do.

"It was real stressful just being away from the game," a smiling Debose told the media after the Gators annual Orange and blue debut which culminates the end of spring practice. "Being back with the team I feel like I am a part finally."

Having his leg carved up and not knowing exactly how things would turn out were bad, but the time away watching others play the game he loves took its toll on the star.

"The low point was probably having the surgery, but as the season (wore on), it gradually got worse and worse," Debose said of the sinking feeling he had. "Not being a part of the team and kind of being on the shelf…it kind of crushed me."

For Debose it was his immediate family that played the biggest part in him coping with the injury.

"My parents played a huge role," he said. "There were plenty of times I had to call my parents to help keep me grounded (about) being stressed about not playing football, what I came here to do. When I came back it was just a great feeling."

"My parents told me to stay focused and that I had no control over the injuries. They told me that everything happens for a reason…they always preached that to me."

He also got support from fellow players. One in particular is a junior that has fought his own battles as a Gator football player. Deonte Thompson has had his moments of disappointment in his use as a receiver in the Gator offense. Undoubtedly he has learned from it.

"Deonte Thompson played a huge role and he always gave me words of encouragement to stay focused and learn the system," Debose said.

Debose has spent a lot of time grinding out the rehab program he was put on by doctors and the strength staff at Florida. He also stayed on top of the play book as much as possible without actually being able to physically run through the plays during the rehab.

"I did everything I could do in studying the plays and working hard with Coach Mickey Marotti in the weight room and do what I could (with) the program to help myself," he said. "…I feel I learned a lot …techniques the older players used. Taking mental reps I think I learned a lot. I had to refer back to my coach (during the scrimmage Saturday) a couple of times, but I felt comfortable."

The reminders are still there as he continues the rehab. He truly believes he will get back to his old self, but thinks about the fact things could be different.

"I have a nice scar and just give it a nice rub every now and then," Debose said. "Everything is in God's hands and I just pray about it every night. I pray for no injuries and to just be successful.

One thing that has really subsided is the constant comparison of Debose to Gator Great Percy Harvin. Debose was to be Harvin's replacement in the offense when Harvin left to become rookie of the year in the NFL last season. He is very happy to be done with those comparisons.

"My grandma said right before I had surgery that I didn't like to be compared to Percy," he said. "Now that I sat out a year it kind of died down and I can make my own name."

On Wednesday Debose was called to the center of the "Circle of Life" at practice. It's a drill designed for two combatants to square off and go at each other as hard as they can. The winner is usually determined by the one with the most will.

Debose squared off with an all-American and won the battle of wills between the two, a real testament for how far he has come in nine months.

"It felt great...I love contact, that's what I do," Debose said, "That was my first real contact of the spring…with Janoris Jenkins. Janoris gave me a good pop to welcome me back."

Debose was greeted by his fellow receivers and offensive players with a rousing show of support for him being back.

"They were congratulating me and welcoming me back and telling me they were very excited that I was back," he said.

He's not all the way back, "Not yet…I don't think, not yet," he said.

There is still some hesitation when he runs and he hasn't been able to get his mind to push his body to the limits of his running ability.

"Opening up full speed and getting the strength back in my leg and learning the system," are all things that he has to fix before the fall in order to make a real difference in 2010. "I am still learning the play book."

He has stayed away from timing himself in order to gauge the return of his speed…another barrier in which he will have to overcome.

"I have not (been on the clock)," Debose said of timing himself in a distance race. "I am curious. I feel fine. I am about 80% and have work to do. It is pretty much a mental thing and I have to trust myself and my leg."

In the meantime, forgive Andre Debose if he smiles a bit. He has waited a long time to get back on the football field. Something that at times he wasn't sure would ever happen again.

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