Cornerback Dominique Battle saw his season ended with a knee injury in September, but returned to practice this spring with a renewed sense of what playing football means to him.
Until, during one unfortunate Saturday in September at Paul Brown Stadium, the clichÃ© slammed him square in the left knee.
"You got to play every play like it is your last, for real,"
The clichÃ© never made sense, because it never hit home for the soon-to-be-senior cornerback. A minor ankle sprain his sophomore season was the only physical setback to sideline him in two years of play.
A healthy, athletic body lifted him to the position where he started 12 of 13 games at corner the 2009 team that went a perfect 12-0 and played in the Sugar Bowl. He returned as one of the few returning pieces of a unit without a senior starter.
Then, in one instant he went from saving a touchdown on kickoff coverage to wondering when he'd be able to play again.
He arrived at the doctor days later expecting to hear he needed a few weeks away. The news didn't cooperate with his expectations. He tore his LCL and MCL. It would require surgery. The full rehab would take 6-9 months. His season was done.
"Going in I am thinking I am about to miss three games of the season,"
The pain stung worse as Big East teams began lighting up the scoreboard. In conference games, UC allowed at least 27 points and gave up an average of 34.
Where the secondary needed an experienced starter to lean in during tough times,
"I was supposed to be the vet coming back," said
Six months following his injury against
When spring practice opened, Dominique Battle rejoined his teammates on the field.
"My motivation was treatment and getting in the weight room and getting back on this green,"
The good vibes flowed up to Butch Jones, who sees
"The experience he brings to the table is invaluable; also the overall competition that is going on in the back end is another piece to that puzzle," Jones said. "It elevates everyone else's game."
No starting spot is guaranteed for
"The first practice was hyped,"