SEATTLE — Two things are certain for Deontae Cooper. He’s not going to quit and he’s not going to stop smiling, no matter how cruelly the game of football treats him.
The sophomore running back met with the media for the first time on Saturday after being diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Wednesday. Cooper had fought his way back after suffering torn ACLs in left knee each of the last two seasons.
But you wouldn’t know that Cooper was hurt. He never stopped smiling once during practice or during the interview.
“I’m going to be fine, I’m going to rehab hard, like I did the other two, and I’m going to be right, physically in shape, ready to go,” he said. “You’ll definitely see me out on the field again. Don’t sleep on me.”
But even Cooper’s seemingly endless positive outlook wavered slightly when he found out he’d torn the ACL on Wednesday.
“I teared up a little bit, it was tough,” he said. “I’ll be all right. It’s still hard, it’s hard now. I’m going to get over it. I don’t have the ‘why me?’ It’s just unfortunate luck. I can’t be unlucky forever. I’m going to catch a break sooner or later.”
It was a bad break when the injury happened in a non-contact drill in his very first practice of the season.
“The funny about it was I made a plant and it was my calf,” he said. “I’m worrying about my calf, and I’ve had so many knee injuries I was like it’s my calf, I’m going to be fine.”
But he wasn’t fine.
“Then as the days went on, I started to feel it in my knee,” he said. “I told the trainers ‘this feels like something serious’ and we did an MRI and they told me it was a slight tear in my ACL. It was just taking a handoff and that’s when it happened.”
The “slight tear” gives Cooper some hope. The first knee injury was an ACL and medial collateral tear and other damage. The recovery from that was much more daunting.
“As soon as I can get surgery, I’m going to start training,” Cooper said. “It was hard the first time. It’s been two years. It’s not as severe as it was on the left. I’m going to be all right.”
LB Tutogi injures knee
A day after Garrett Gilliland decided to give up football and Nate Fellner was diagnosed with broken foot, the Huskies’ linebackers took another hit. Junior middle linebacker Thomas Tutogi got his leg caught under him in the first play of the first 11-on-11 period and sprained a knee.
“By first look, doesn’t appear to be overly serious, but we’ll wait until we can get all the tests done properly,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “But from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look to be serious.”
Linebacker Princeton Fuiamaono also sat out of practice for an undisclosed reason, while Taz Stephenson did not practice for the second straight day because of a head injury. It left John Timu and Jamaal Kearse as the most experienced linebackers left on the field. Converted safety Evan Zeger and redshirt freshman Scott Lawyer also took first team reps at the other outside linebacker position.
The Huskies have at least a modicum of depth to survive the injuries for a few weeks compared to when Sarkisian took over.
“We would have been in dire straights at that point and I think that’s the value of recruiting and having depth,” he said. “I’m not happy that guys are getting nicked up, but we have the depth in place to make up for it, and not just depth but pretty good players that are stepping in and making good plays.”
Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens and safety James Sample did not practice because of minor groin injuries. Sarksian felt it was best to rest them and take of advantage of the off day today. … Wide receiver James Johnson (foot) did not practice for the second straight day. … True freshman Shane Brostek was wearing a cast on his right hand. But Sarkisian did not disclose the injury. … Junior kicker Travis Coons made 3-of-5 field goal attempts, including one from 55 yards. The Huskies went to the Seahawks-Titans preseason game. Sarkisian said it was a way to build team camaraderie and also see former teammates Jake Locker, Devin Aguilar, who play for the Titans and Jermaine Kearse, who is with the Seahawks.