"It's frustrating, to tell you the truth," said a downcast Schmitt. "I can't push off my leg. I can't play at full speed. It's like I'm not even the same person. It's annoying, because it hurts. It's not like when I'm out there I can forget about it, either. Time will tell if it will get any better, and I'm doing everything I can to try to get it right. It's a slow process."
The injury, which occurred after Schmitt was reinserted into the Cincinnati game following fumbles by reserve runners, is different than the normal ankle sprain.
"I have a lot of the bones in my left ankle that are jammed together, and they are all bruised up. It's sort of like bone bruises, and those can take a long time to heal," he explained. "I am going to try to get off of it in the next couple of days and hope that more time will help heal it."
That's what makes the entire situation even more frustrating to the powerful fullback, who approaches every situation head on and with maximum effort. An increased amount of rehabilitation won't help the ankle improve, and the application of his iron will and determination can't help him power through the injury.
"I can ice it, but there's only so much you can do," he said of his rehab efforts. "I've had it for six or seven weeks -- I don't even know how long it's been. It's frustrating, if you can't tell that [from my voice]."
Making it all the more difficult is the fact that Schmitt can't do anything to overcome the pain and lack of strength that the injury causes. Renowned, and deservedly so, as one of the toughest players on the team, Schmitt has played through several injuries in the past, but this one is of a different sort. He can't get a good start out of his stance, make a cut or explode into would-be tacklers – all attributes that are important parts of his game.
"This is the first time I've ever had an injury that has slowed me this much," said Schmitt, who obviously is struggling not only with the injury itself but also in how to deal with it. "I've been hurt before, but nothing like this."
Schmitt also revealed another frustrating aspect of the problem – the fact that it yo-yos up and down in terms of its effects.
"I'll get up in the morning sometimes and it will feel so good just walking around on it, but then I'll go to practice and plant hard on it and it goes back to the way it was before. Some days I practice on it and I feel O.K., but then the next day it's all the way back to zero. There were points in games where it just starts to bother me really bad, and I can't push off of it, and that's half of what I do – being explosive."
That the injury has affected Schmitt's play on the field is easy to see. He hasn't been able to rip off the long-gainers that marked his initial year in a Mountaineer uniform, and his healthy presence was sorely missed in the South Florida game, which cried out for a power-based running attack between the tackles. No one feels worse about that than Schmitt himself, who wants nothing more than to give his all to help his teammates succeed.
"Hopefully it heals before the bowl game, because I want to help the seniors go out with 11 wins," he said, while trying to remain optimistic. "But time will tell. I'll get all the treatments I can, and we'll see."