CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – When North Carolina’s defensive line split off for position drills during pregame warmups on Saturday, it was junior defensive end Dajaun Drennon that entered the circle of bodies to provide a fiery message prior to kickoff against Georgia Tech.
It’s been a long season of rehab and recovery for the two-year starter at defensive end, and he’s finally back to full health for the Tar Heels’ stretch run.
“It felt great,” Drennon told reporters following the 48-20 victory. “I’ve just really been waiting all season to get my shot to get back out there. Today I felt great and didn’t have any pain in my foot or my hamstring. I felt like I was able to go out there and give it my all.”
Drennon was sidelined six months after breaking his right foot during spring practice in late March. He had surgery to insert a pin in early April, which put his target date to return the first week of October. The athletic training staff keep his conditioning up by making use of underwater and anti-gravity treadmills.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound native of Clementon, N.J. returned on schedule against Virginia Tech on Oct. 8, although another setback – this time in the form of a pulled hamstring – occurred on his eighth play from scrimmage. While that injury sidelined Drennon an additional two games, the adversity he’s endured has provided a unique perspective.
“It’s been frustrating, but it’s helped me realize how much I miss football,” Drennon said. “I’ve been telling the guys, it’s just like when you finally get away from football, you see the things that you wish you were still doing. You really want to contribute with the team. I feel like it has been a bad process because I haven’t been able to play, but I got to look at life a little bit differently from both of those injuries.”
Drennon, who has started 25 games during his UNC career, estimated he played between 20-30 reps against the Yellow Jackets, most of which came after halftime.