Waynesburg’s Gary ready for return
When Bryan Gary made the cut and heard the pop, he knew exactly what happened.
And the free safety from Waynesburg University knew what was then a great 2012 season for him had suddenly turned to disaster with surgery and a long rehabilitation looming.
The popping sound was the ACL and meniscus tearing away from their spots in his right knee. Gary was chasing Geneva quarterback Zach Hayward during a blitz when the injury occurred.
“The quarterback was going to the right. As I started going to the right, he switched directions to the left. I switched directions. As soon as I planted, my knee, it just popped,” said Gary. “I knew right away what happened.”
That’s because Gary had torn his ACL in that knee two years ago in his freshman season. The injury came after he intercepted a pass in a junior varisty home game against Notre Dame College.
“Their quarterback was chasing me,” Gary said. “I took a helmet to my knee.”
The second injury came in Week 8 of last season with the Yellow Jackets undefeated at that point. Two weeks from then was the biggest game of the season, against arch-rival Washington & Jefferson. The swelling subsided and Gary was operated on the next week.
“This was the worst possible scenario,” said Gary. “It was truly devastating to me. When my knee popped, I knew what the future was because I did it before. I knew what I had to do. It stunk, because I had to watch the team play, and I couldn’t be out on the field with them. It made me take a vocal leadership role.”
That’s why Gary is eager to get back on the field today when the Yellow Jackets host Muskingum in the season opener at Wiley Stadium. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets missed their best defensive player on the field. Mike Lopuchovsky stepped in for Gary in a 42-16 victory over Westminster the following week and in the regular-season finale, a 31-14 loss to the Presidents that cost Waynesburg the automatic bid for the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Gary helplessly watched from the sidelines, not quite believing the repeat of his misfortune.
“I was on the sidelines (already) without crutches for the W&J game. That was two weeks later. That was really hard to watch.”
When he tore up the knee the first time, it took five months to get back to 100 percent and return to his normal football drills. The second injury took an extra month.
“This one was a little bit different of a surgery,” Gary said. “I used a tendon from a cadaver this time. Because it’s not your own, it takes a little longer to heal. This one took seven, eight months. It’s a very long rehab.”
Waynesburg’s defense felt his loss. Despite missing the final three games, Gary ended up the leading tackler with 69, led the team with eight pass breakups and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Those numbers were strong enough to make Gary a first-team selection on the All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference team.
“I really like our defense,” said Waynesburg head coach Rick Shepas. “They can be as good as they want to be. I love us through the middle … and Gary is an outstanding player.”
Still, Gary will have to reacclimate himself to the pace of the game. He hasn’t been able to do much while rehabbing the knee. He remains optimistic.
“I don’t think it will be tough for me at all,” he said. “Right now, sitting here, I might be thinking that I’ll be nervous cutting. Once I actually get on the field, I don’t think about my knee at all. I just naturally get right back to where it was. I do sprints, run hills, do agility. There are no restrictions.”