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August 16, 2012It would have been easy, given all the circumstances, for Devon Ramsay to have moved on from North Carolina's football program after last season.
And nobody would have blamed him if he had.
He suffered a horrible break in the season opener a year ago, suffering multiple ligament tears in his left knee. This after he had been reinstated to the UNC squad in the winter of 2011 in a rare penalty reversal by the NCAA.
But neither of those things kept Ramsay away.
Just a few months after having reconstructive surgery to repair his ACL, MCL, and meniscus, Larry Fedora made his way to Chapel Hill as UNC's new coach.
Knowing that Fedora's high-octane offensive style didn't regularly feature a fullback could have been highly discouraging for a guy like Ramsay, who was recruited to Chapel Hill by former head coach Butch Davis and his staff as a traditional hand-to-the-ground fullback in Carolina's former pro-style offense.
But that didn't keep Ramsay away.
Neither did knowing that even if he does come back healthy and help the Tar Heels this fall, his final collegiate season will not feature a postseason bowl appearance.
You see, Devon Ramsay isn't a quitter.
And while he briefly considered walking away from UNC, he was quickly talked out of it thanks to good advice from a strong circle of family and friends, as well as his own conviction to make another go at it.
"I was a little flippy-floppy, but then I talked to my mother and some close family friends, and I was pretty sure I wanted to come back," Ramsay said. "I just stayed around friends and family and they just kept my spirits up and stayed positive. But it was tough. It was really tough."
Ramsay admits that for a little while he blamed himself for what was essentially a freak injury in which a defensive player collided into the back of his leg and rolled him from behind.
"Yeah, for a little while (I blamed myself)," Ramsay said. "I've replayed it and thought about what I could have done differently. I always think that I was a little hesitant going into the block. And if I had attacked a little, he may have fallen on my ankle and maybe not all the way on my knee. That's what I was thinking about, and it kind of bugged me."
That type of thinking---dwelling on the injury---wasn't healthy for Ramsay, but fortunately after a few weeks he snapped out of his depression and re-geared himself to get back into shape and back onto the field after being granted a sixth season of eligibility.
"When I tore my knee, it was like I did all the work, and then the first half and that was the one time I played, so I just wanted to end on a strong season. I just didn't want to end off on such a bad note, because all that fighting against the NCAA verdict, so I really just wanted to end on a high note," he added.
"I was out here for spring ball, but I'm really excited really just to get on the field and catch passes and blocking. That's what I'm really looking forward to because it's been since JMU last year since I've been able to do that, so I'm excited to be able to hit somebody."
Ramsay told Tar Heel Illustrated following Thursday afternoon's practice that he hasn't been fully cleared for practice yet, but his return to training camp this week after missing the first week and a half is a strong sign that he still plans to contribute.
"It feels pretty good, you know (to be back in camp)," he said. "It's been a long time away from my teammates, so it feels good to be back."
"I'd say I'm around 60 to 70 percent. I'm still in the process of getting fully cleared, so I can be able to fully participate in practice. It (the left knee) a little sore, a little swollen, but it's getting better. I'm definitely making a lot of progress."
When he does return, Ramsay is hopeful that he can help the Tar Heels as a larger back in key short-yardage downs, as well as plays around the goal line.
He's shown effectiveness when he's been on the field in the past in these areas, and could give UNC another option along with the guys currently working in practice.
"They (the UNC coaches) haven't really been able to see what I can do, but primarily goal line and short-yardage," Ramsay said. "There's definitely goal line and short-yardage packages that will use the fullback to clear out the way."
"I'd like to be used. I'd like to expand my role, but I have to show them what I can do so that will be possible," he added.
Another way Ramsay has shown in the past he can help the Tar Heels is catching passes out of the backfield, and in this offense that's another way he'll be viable.
"Yeah, I'd definitely like to be able to contribute in that way (catching passes), but first I need to be able to play. I need to come back and show them what I can do."