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May 3, 2009
ATHENS, Ga. - Trinton Sturdivant says he has a lot to be thankful for, an awful lot.
When Georgia's left tackle ambled into the team meeting room recently, there was no sign of a limp or altered gait that would lead one to suggest that the sophomore won't be 100 percent for the Bulldogs' opener at Oklahoma State.
Considering the extent of the knee injury that cost Sturdivant his 2008 season, that is an amazing fact. Besides tearing meniscus in his left knee, Sturdivant tore the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament, an injury that at one point had some ? including Sturdivant himself ? wondering if he would ever play again.
But as the Bulldogs prepare for this week's final exams, there he was looking very much like the same player who earned Freshman All-SEC honors in 2007.
"It been a while since I've been able to sprint and do what I do without holding back," Sturdivant said. "It's just feels real good. I feel like I'm back to my old self. I'm just real excited about this year."
Although it's been nine months since Sturdivant suffered the injury during a preseason scrimmage at Sanford Stadium last August, the North Carolina native admits he marvels at how far he has come.
"It's shocking. In the beginning it was so painful, I couldn't even walk. I couldn't even put pressure on it," Sturdivant said. "A few months ago it hurt just to walk around, but now I'm sprinting, running, twisting, doing everything."
Taking part in actual contact will now be the next step. But first he has to get officially cleared by team trainer Ron Courson. Although that "official" clearance won't come until June, Sturdivant said Courson told him that if practices were to be held in May, he would be able to take part in all the drills.
Sturdivant sees no reason why he can't pick up where he left off.
"I think that's going to come with my dedication over the summer, getting back used to the speed of the game, recognizing where this linebacker is on this play, versus this front, or what blitz is coming when," he said. "I know it but actually going out there and do it will be the challenge that I go out and face this summer."
The 6-foot-5 Sturdivant says he is currently at the weight he was before the injury ? a solid 304 pounds. But there were some early issues. Sturdivant said he lost 20 pounds following his surgery, but he gained 35 back before getting back down to his current weight.
"I had to get back in shape," he said. "But when I got back to running and working out really hard with Clay [assistant strength coach Clay Walker] and the other guys on the strength staff, they got me back real quick."
Although offensive line coach Stacy Searels has yet to determine the starting unit, one figures that Sturdivant will once again man the left tackle spot for Georgia this fall, the position he played so well his freshman campaign.
But as Sturdivant points out, he wasn't the only lineman coming back from surgery, citing Vince Vance (ACL), Josh Davis (shoulder) and Chris Davis (hip) as players going through rehabs of their own. Of the three, only Davis is questionable for the start of fall camp.
Sturdivant said the experience players like Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson, among others, received filling in should benefit Georgia, which hopes to have one of the SEC's best offensive lines this fall.
"I would say so. That's our goal," Sturdivant said. " It [the injuries] gave everybody a chance to play. ... A lot of guys had to step in. ... I think time will tell if we'll be the best, but I know we're going to go out there and work."
As Sturdivant put it, Georgia's success this fall will depend on it.
"This is our time that we are going to be seriously critiqued. If we don't go, the offense is not going to go," Sturdivant said. "Joe [quarterback Joe Cox] is a fifth-year senior, we believe in him 100 percent, but he's started like one game. That won't make a difference in his production level, but that [knowledge] helps get our mind ready for what we are to face.
"I have a saying, 'To be ready for the worst but hope for the best.' We're just going to prepare like we're going out there with a freshman quarterback. We know he's the best, so hopefully that will pay off in the end."