"Physically 100%. Feeling great. I'm so excited. I've been waiting a year to be back out here."
What were the injuries that kept you out and made you redshirt?
"It was finally diagnosed as what's know as Facet's Syndrome, which I guess the Facet joints are the ones in your back that allow you to bend and twist. They think I might have torn something, which threw the back into spasm. It just kind of compiled and got worse and worse. They think it started with maybe taking a bad hit."
When did you start experiencing it?
"Actually I played with it my true junior season. It happened going into my junior season. I played with it through my junior year. And as time went on, with the constant lifting, running, football practice and games, getting hit, it kept getting worse and worse. They came to me last year and say, ‘You know, we have some depth and talent, and if you wanted to take a redshirt year, we could medical you and let you rest.'"
When did you get the problem properly diagnosed?
"I went to about 20 specialists, doctors here [UCLA], doctors all over, the majority of them said try rest and see if that's the answer. Then it was finally diagnosed. And getting the rest was the key, but so was rehab."
Did you lose hope that you'd ever get back to 100%, or did you always believe?
"I think a little bit of both. Not knowing what was to be expected, I thought it might stay like this. But hopefully with the rest and then the rehab it could get better. And as the weeks progressed, it slowly but surely got better and better and then with rehab, I kind of went over the peak and knew I was good to go. Then I got back into lifting and running. There was only possibly one or two days when I might have had a flair up when I was sitting out. But going from everyday waking up and wondering what I was doing, what I was doing out here and feeling like this, to waking up and feeling great and being able to do what everyone else can do was big."
So, it has occasionally flared up?
"No, actually, the last time I felt it was before spring. I'm feeling really good. It hasn't happened at all."
Are you excited about fall?
"The excitement right now is a little overwhelming. With the freshmen coming in last week, the start of practice and that I'm 100%. I feel I have to claw and scratch my way back up the depth chart. They've said you'll have to compete and that's fine. I understand that."
Do you think the coaches have confidence in your health?
"I've been 100% for months, for about four or five months. I went through the off-season workouts and they then kind of tip-toed around it. They said they didn't want me to try things that could make it flare up, since I've had problems in the past. Then once I was 100% for a while, they said to give it a shot, and if it doesn't flare up, you're good to go."
Do you think it might have actually put you in a good position – one with lower expectations?
"I think the expectations I set for myself are a lot higher than what others have, and what others are giving me credit for. It's not like I've never been out on the football field and don't know what I'm doing. I think it's just being able to capitalize on the opportunities I'm going to be given in the fall and show them that they can't forget #85 because I'm back here to play. I wouldn't have wasted their time or mine if I didn't know I could contribute and play and get back out on the field. That's the number one concern. Everything is good right now. They might not have too high of expectations right now for me, or think I'm going to contribute, but when I'm out there on the field and busting hump and getting things done I think it's going to be great."
What do you think are your chances of making the wide receiver rotation?
"I think it's good. Obviously, there's definitely talent. But I think I bring the experience. I've been here. I've played every year. I think I bring some of the experience that might be the ingredient the wide receivers need. I'm the only guy on the team that's played in the Rose Bowl. I have been in that big game and played in many different situations, so hopefully that helps my cause."
How do you think you are now as a wide receiver compared to when you were younger?
"I feel really good. That's big. I think I'm better than I've ever been. Compared to rest of career, it's hard because when I was injured I lost a step, speed-wise, and probably lost the confidence of the quarterbacks and the coaches. I think it affected confidence and all of that. Coming back out here this summer and working out and feeling really good, running routes, feeling healthy, restored some of that confidence with the quarterbacks. So, now, in fall, it's time to restore that confidence with the coaches. That's the plan of attack right now. They don't know what I have in store for them. So, I'm going to get out there and show them."