Hord Makes His Return

Teammate David Grimes is D.J. Hord's boy, but his best friends this past year were the exercise bike and jug-ball machine. Hord can finally ditch them. Out since July with a ruptured Achilles tendon, the junior-to-be receiver returned from the sideline to the Notre Dame practice field for the first day of spring camp on Wednesday.

Receivers coach Rob Ianello said there might not have been a happier player inside the Loftus Center than Hord during the first of 15 spring practices concluding with the Blue-Gold game April 21.

"It feels great man," Hord said with a big smile. "To sit out a whole year last year and just watch, it felt just wonderful to get out there and finally practice."

It was a wonderful sight for the coaches as well. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Hord will figure strongly into the mix of who will replace Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight this coming season.

"I'm anxious to see D.J. continue to work everyday and improve, and get better, continue to grow as a player, which we are counting on him doing," Ianello said.

The most touted recruit in the 2005 recruiting class, Hord injured himself during a summer speed workout in preparation for the season. Unable to run, he was relegated to the bike and jug-ball machine.

Then there was also the rehabilitation. A long process to get strength back in his lower left leg, and eventually his speed.

"Just rehabbed everyday, and did what I could to get back," Hord said. "Just had to stay focused and just couldn't get down a lot. Just had to stay up all the time and work hard to get back.

"At times it was (hard) because I just had to sit and watch everybody, and everybody had their fun in the games and everything like that. It was just kind of hard to sit back and watch. I just had to keep focusing and keep rehabbing."

Hord played sparingly as a freshman receiver, but was poised to compete for that third receiver spot classmate Grimes eventually won last season. The injury cut into Hord's growth as a player, but he was still able to take all the mental reps.

At practice, Hord would ride his buddy the bike during individual drill work, but when the team grouped for 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 activity, he would make his way over, stand as close as he could and try and learn.

"Last year wasn't a waste at all," Hord said. "I went to every practice, I went to every meeting. I just picked Rhema's and Jeff's brains, just asked them any kind of question I had about anything, and they answered it for me. So I learned a lot last year actually."

Hord said he was a little tentative out there, running around in just a helmet. The full pads and hitting begins on Saturday, and that should reacquaint Hord with the game. Take the nerves out a bit.

"I think the biggest thing he's got to get through is get it mentally through his mind that every time he goes out there, he's not going to get hurt," head coach Charlie Weis said. "He's had some bad luck. So, now, here we go again, we're coming off a freak injury last year, he's got to get through his mind, okay, because physically, he's healthy. You've just got to break through those mental barriers and be set and ready to go."

Hord hopes to feel set and ready to go real soon.

"It's just the first practice, so I'm just trying to get back into it, get back into the flow of everything and just try to compete for a spot," Hord explained. "It's not all the way back yet. I still have a little ways to go, but I still have some speed.

"I still have to get used to practicing, getting used to cutting, get that strength back I lost from the injury."

While Hord worries about that, he isn't sure if he fits into the return game at all. As a freshman, Hord returned seven kicks for 123 yards (17.6 avg.) with a long of 36 yards. He'd like to step into that role again as well.

While Hord was down about his own situation, he enjoyed watching Grimes develop into the team's No. 3 receiver.

"Grimes is my boy, so I was just happy for him to do good and catch as many touchdowns and catches as he could," Hord said.

Hord now hopes its him making the catches and scoring the touchdowns this coming season.

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