August 11, 2006

Tomerlin playing through the pain

It's been a frustrating first week of fall camp for Justin Tomerlin.

After making a successful transition last spring from defensive end to tight end, Tomerlin was looking forward to the month of August as a time to solidify his role in Nebraska's West Coast Offense. However, an injury to his right shoulder on the first day of practice has slowed Tomerlin's progression and created a dilemma for the 6-foot-6, 265-pound sophomore.

"I'm trying to fight through it and play through it. It's kind of a catch-22 situation. Either I don't practice for two weeks and let it fully heal and lose the chance of playing the first half of the season, or I come out, practice like I'm doing right now and not be 100 percent and not play to the level that they're looking for in a starter."

The separated shoulder, Tomerlin said, is the most painful football-related injury he's ever encountered. He consulted Nebraska's medical staff before making the decision to return to the practice field. He said doctors told him that practicing wouldn't create complications or worsen his injury unless he took a direct hit strong enough to injure a fully-healed shoulder.

When he is on the practice field, Tomerlin tries to put the injury out of his mind, but it's easier said than done.Tomerlin said he enjoys being back on the offensive side of the ball, something he hasn't done since his playing days at San Clemente (Calif.) High School.Tomerlin has had the fortune of learning his new position along side [db]Matt Herian[/db], one of the top tight ends in college football. Tomerlin said it's the little extras that make Herian so special and he's trying to learn everything he can from the Husker senior.

Tomerlin came to Nebraska in 2005 after starring at defensive end for one season at Butler County (Kan.) Community College. At Butler, he and teammates Zac Taylor and Frantz Hardy posted an 11-1 record and it made to the NJCAA championship game. Tomerlin sat out his first season in Lincoln as a redshirt.

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