Just before the start of spring practice on Saturday, Kansas State senior Antwon Moore bent over in his purple practice jersey to stretch his left leg. Then he did it again, just to be sure. So much time had passed for the do-everything linebacker. He often wondered if it would ever be like this again. Asked what it all felt like, Moore stood upright and a smile filled his face and sounding more like a warning than a declaration, he said, "I'm back."
There are players. Then there are players. It had been so long, 204 days to be exact, since the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder used his slight size, cat-like speed and quickness to wreak havoc inside the stadium.
Take it back to the season opener at Auburn. Moore sacked Brandon Cox once and stormed around the edge several other times. Nobody except for the guys on the sideline saw this coming. One Auburn writer likened him to a character out of a video game. Moore looked like a heat-seeking missile. As inside linebacker Reggie Walker put it, "When he comes off the edge, he's a terror."
In the home opener a week later, Moore did it again. He was too low to the ground and simply came around too quickly. While most eyes focused on All-Big 12 Ian Campbell, Ron Prince knew he had found a secret weapon.
Then facing third-and-11 at the K-State 29-yard line late in the first quarter, San Jose State quarterback Adam Tafralis went back to pass. Moore had been in his grill a couple times already. This time, he brought Tafralis to the turf and sent the crowd of 45,545 to its feet.
But something terrible happened. Moore had left his feet to jump on Tafralis and in the process brought the heap of bodies down on his own knee, which buckled horribly. Moore eventually did get up, but two trainers had to help him upright and he could only walk on his right foot and he disappeared into the locker room during the second quarter. Moore emerged from the locker room again. But it was one week later. And this time, Moore walked to the sideline on crutches.
Moore's junior season lasted five quarters and 15 defensive series. He had five tackles, two sacks, a torn ACL and a long road ahead of him.
Disbelief, anger, rehab, perceived isolation from teammates -- Moore felt it all. Turned out the mental part of it was just as hard on him as the physical part in dealing with the injury.
Which brought Moore to the start of spring practice.
"I never thought that type of situation would happen to me," Moore said, doing more stretching. "When it happened, even though I knew it was my ACL, I kept thinking, 'It's cool, it's cool.' It hurt. I felt like I let my team down.
"The situation with the knee, I put that on myself. It shouldn't have happened."
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