There was a time when Jasper Brinkley wasn't sure if he was going to have a football career that would include being drafted into the NFL. In the fourth game of the 2007 season, Brinkley tore his right lateral collateral ligament. Surgery was performed and followed up with months of rehabilitation
Despite returning last season to play for South Carolina, Brinkley was still trying to return to form. His motivation was trying to continue his journey to the NFL. That dream came true when the Vikings moved up eight spots in the fifth round to take him – a move that Brinkley viewed as a high compliment.
"It was a great feeling," Brinkley said. "Once they told me that, I felt that they were pretty comfortable with a guy like me."
Brinkley is no stranger to the Vikings. When attending Georgia Military College, he was teammates with Aundrae Allison. While playing at South Carolina, he was teammates with Sidney Rice. He was also one of the players that the Vikings sought out for a formal interview at the Combine. He thought the Vikings could potentially be a team that would draft him, but he had to wait for what seemed like an eternity before the call came in the fifth round.
"It was one of those situations where everybody kept telling me to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst," Brinkley said. "That was the situation it basically turned into."
Talent wasn't the question when it came to Brinkley, it was the medical concern from his torn LCL. As with such operations, it takes a full year to completely recover from such an injury and Brinkley said he didn't feel like his old self until the 2008 season was almost over.
"I got to full speed toward the end of the year," Brinkley said. "You could tell by the way my performance showed – my tackles and sacks started to increase."
Scouts noticed a discernible change in Brinkley from the East-West Shrine Game to the Combine. He dropped 10 pounds and appeared to have his speed back. He said the weight loss was the result of neglecting his diet as a senior. He felt he needed to make a change if he was going to catch the eye of NFL teams.
"It was something I needed to do," Brinkley said. "Coming off the knee injury, I was in a wheelchair for two months. I had to get back out and learn how to run and jog again. We had just brought a new defensive coordinator in, so I was spending more time trying to learn a new scheme and new terminology so that I wouldn't skip a beat once I had the opportunity to get back on the field after the injury. I didn't focus on my nutrition."
Brinkley believes being drafted by the Vikings is the end of a long road of recovery. After seeing his career flash before his eyes and spending two months in a wheelchair while wearing a straight cast from his ankle to his upper thigh, he finally believes he is all the way back. He said the rehab was an ordeal, but one that he believes has made him a better man and gave him more of an appreciation of what he has because he knows it could all be gone in a second.
"It was so tough," Brinkley said. "But at the end of the day, it made me a stronger individual because sometimes you can be given things in life and it can be taken away in the blink of an eye."
Brinkley thankful for opportunity
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