Injuries are acceptable risk for any athlete opting to play most sports, but it’s especially true for those that decide to play football. Despite that realization by players and fans alike, injuries of the career threatening variety are no less hard to take… especially when said player is one with tremendous talent. Such is the case with Michigan junior Antonio Bass. The false step taken by the 6-2, 200-pounder in spring practice almost two years ago still resonates in the minds of Maize & Blue supporters as one of the more disappointing player setbacks in recent memory. The elusiveness, grace, and speed that he displayed as a prep, and in a limited capacity as a college freshman was seemingly erased in one fail swoop. Or was it?
“I hope Antonio can be back this spring,” an optimistic Antonio
Bass Sr. said recently. “Everything is looking good. (His knee) finally
seems to be coming around and responding like it’s supposed to. He is
running. We are not really sure when he’ll be able to start cutting yet.
I’m just hoping for this spring.
He is definitely doing what he supposed to do as far as doing what it takes to get back there.”
The magnitude of Bass’ injury made the mere idea of just running again appear to be a more realistic goal than playing competitive football. However, two surgeries over the span of a year and a lot of blood sweat and tears have allowed the youngster to buck what some said were impossible odds.
“Willis McGahee had a similar type of injury when he got tackled against Ohio State in that National title game,” Bass Sr. explained. “He tore all four (ligaments)… PCL, ACL, LCL, and MCL. Antonio tore all four in a similar style with a stretching of the vein. Pretty much the same thing. When that happens, automatically, it’s a two year injury. In the knee everything is stable; it’s just the stretching of that vein… it takes a long time for veins to heal. If you’ve ever had any kind of nerve damage, that’s a slow process. It really is. You have to be careful. They told Tone after his second operation that he’d be on crutches for six months. He was on crutches for 30 days!”
The optimism in the Bass family has grown increasingly strong in recent months and was bolstered even further by the news of Rich Rodriguez’s hire. Michigan’s new headman has an offense that Bass, a former dual threat quarterback at Jackson high school, finds appealing.
“I think Tone will be playing again,” Bass Sr. said. “I really believe that. I told him that from day one. I said it is going to be a long uphill battle and it is going to be a struggle, but it is going to make you a better person when you persevere through something like that. Now with the new coach coming in, he plays a style that really suits Antonio’s skills. Things happen for a reason. This might be an opportunity that we just didn’t see.”
While the outlook for Bass’ playing future certainly appears more promising, there are still significant hurdles to clear. He must continue the progress he has shown as of late, he must begin cutting on the leg, and then he must take contact. Therefore, making it back for the spring is by no means a certainty. Even if things were to be further delayed, or worst yet, he was never able to resume his career, Antonio Bass Jr. has found the kind of perspective that will allow him to weather those storms.
“I asked Antonio why he thinks he has been able to stay positive throughout all of this and he said, ‘I want to do something with my life,’” Bass Sr. said. “ That’s the bottom line. Then there are some friends of his that went through situations that made him look at his situation and say his is minor compared to theirs. I think Antonio is using some of that to say, ‘I don’t have it as bad as a whole lot of people.’ I’ve always told him, ‘don’t get down on yourself and understand what you went up there for. You went up there to go to school. Everything that can be taken away from you.’ That’s just being realistic. I told him, ‘it would have been easy just to fold tent, but you persevered. That’s going to make you a better person all of the way around.’ This cat… I’m really proud of Antonio. He is doing really well in school. He has like a 3.1, man. He is doing his thing.”
Much of young Bass’ drive has come form within, but the support of family, friends, and fans has been helpful as well. The youngster can finally see the finish line ahead and there seems to be an endless number of well-wishers anxious to cheer him on every step of the way.
“The thing about it is, there are so many people that are pulling for him,” Bass Sr. said. “There are so many people that come up to me daily. As a matter of fact I was just up at the corner store and there are so many prayers going out for him. There are a ton of prayers going out for him. If you’re a man of faith, it’s unbelievable. It’s overwhelming, man. Overwhelming! When it happened, people took it worse than I did. People that knew him or just people from this area…they took it worse than I did. He has a lot of people pulling for him and it’s been great. Tell everybody I think they’ll see Antonio again.”