"I was uncomfortable standing," Szczerba said of last fall. "And sitting. And it got to the point where I was uncomfortable sleeping,"
That's when he realized there was a problem.
"I had a bulging disk that was pinching my sciatic nerve," Szczerba said. "So they took the cartilage from that disk that was pressing from the nerve out."
That was November. Slowly but surely, Szczerba began the rehab process.
"In the beginning, for three months, I didn't do anything. I couldn't lift more than five pounds, so that was frustrating and a slow process," Szczerba said. "Day by day I started adding more to my training routine and working on my overall flexibility and getting back in the weight room."
But there was never any doubt in the Wilmington, Del., native's mind that he would return to the field.
"I know that right after my surgery a lot of thoughts ran though my mind," Szczerba said. "I was just praying a lot about it, and my family was there to keep me focused and keep me motivated.
He continued, "I knew I would be back on the field."
He was able to work out on a limited basis in the spring. On Saturday, Szczerba will suit up for the Nittany Lions for the first time since 2009, when he played behind Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
"I have been anxious and nervous," Szczerba said. "I have been waiting for this day for a long time — I just have to tell myself to get out there and have fun and enjoy it. I have to make the most of it this year."
After watching from the sideline for an entire season, Szczerba is determined to make an impact during his senior campaign.
"Any player going into the season wants to have a thousand catches for a thousand yards," Szczerba said. "And obviously we would like to see more production from our tight ends, and I think we have the ability to do that. So I think we will be fine this year."
And Szczerba plans to ensure that production, with his new mantra.
"I want to make sure that my piece of the puzzle is 100 percent," Szczerba said. "And do everything I can go make sure that I help my team."
And Saturday, as Penn State takes on Indiana State, he will finally get the chance.