It’s not often that a football player at any level can return to the playing field from a torn ACL in less than a few months, although it’s not completely unheard of these days given the tremendous medical advances made in this area. Returning less than three months after undergoing surgery to repair those ligaments? Now that is nearly unheard of.
And, yet, Cincinnati wide receiver Vidal Hazelton is working his way toward the precipice of doing just that.
Less than seven weeks after undergoing a surgical procedure that involved the grafting of part of an Achilles tendon from a cadaver? “He’s made tremendous progress,” UC trainer Bob Mangine told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
So tremendous, in fact, that Hazelton is pointing toward a return against Pittsburgh Dec. 4, exactly three months after incurring the injury.
“I don’t want to jinx it,” Hazelton said, “but it’s healing rally fast. We’ll see what happens.”
It goes without saying that Hazelton has been working overtime with his eyes fixed squarely on a return this year, but there’s another factor that he needs to take into consideration. The senior will be eligible for the NFL draft this April as it’s unlikely — but not impossible — he would get a hardship waiver from the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.
Should he return for the Pittsburgh game, it would, one, guarantee that he won’t get a sixth year of eligibility and, two, if he reinjures the knee, it could send his draft stock plummeting even further.
Hazelton seems to understand the risks involved, and appears willing to trust the judgment of both himself and the medical personnel overseeing his rehab..
“I look at like you’ve only got one life to live,” Hazelton said. “I’m not going to put myself in that situation. Neither is the doctor. I’m going to get it looked at by a whole bunch of doctors and make sure everything is good. If I feel good, I’m going to play. I’m not going to hold back from nothing.”
Just the fact that a return is even within the realm of possibility is stunning, especially given the position he plays. If he does actually pull off the comeback? That’s downright miraculous and a tremendous testament to the work ethic he possesses.
If I’m an NFL team, I’d take a chance on him just for that.