Kenny Bigelow admits "I cried for five or 10 minutes" after learning last week that the noncontact injury to his right knee in a players-only workout Tuesday a week ago would require season-ending surgery.
For a second straight year, the highly touted redshirt freshman defensive lineman from Elkton, Md. would not be playing football -- at least not in a game.
So what was he doing at the 6 a.m. Friday team run with the rest of his Trojans teammates?
Whatever he could. Just what he was doing when he got hurt first doing a bag drill the players do every day. It was a freak thing, really. Right away, he knew he'd done something.
But that didn't stop him that night. He stayed with it, only to get cut down on a one-on-one pass rush as his knee got caught up on a speed rush. He was down for a full minute, trying to work it out and then got back up and finished the throwing session, going in for the 11-on-11 stuff.
But overnight, he realized someting was wrong. "It really hurt," he said. So they did the MRI and he got the bad news.
"It sucks," Bigelow said. "It's devastating. Of course it hurts."
He was talking about hurting emotionally. Nothing he can do about that. But he's handling the pain of the ACL tear amazingly well as he prepares for surgery. USC training people are blown away by his not missing either of the last two conditioning sessions.
"I can run straight ahead," he says. "I just can't go laterally." But here's what he can do.
"I see myself as a motivator for this team," Bigelow said, doing "whatever I can to help -- anything I can do to help this team.
"My mindset is I'll be back," the 300-pounder who was just starting to display the ability that made him such a big-time recruit two years ago out of Eastern Christian Academy with his USC teammate, Khaliel Rodgers. His flexibility and ability to make plays in the rotation with USC's first four up front has improved significantly this spring and summer.
But he's not letting it set him back. "Adrian Peterson came back in less than a year and dominated," he said. "That's what I plan to do."
Senior linebacker Hayes Pullard said "It's awesome what he's doing. He's a great kid and he's had some tough times here. Not being in condition the first year and then getting where he did this year and now this.
"But what he's doing is super awesome," Pullard said. "He doesn't have to be here and he is. That says a lot about the way the guys on this team are. It really is a team thing, not individuals first."