Chris Jacobson, who was a high school All-American, won't be throwing a party Saturday to commemorate one year since he suffered a season-ending knee injury as a freshman offensive guard prospect at Pittsburgh.
Instead, Jacobson, Pitt's second-team right offensive guard, will be trying to earn playing time as a redshirt freshman with the Panthers this season.
"I feel really good, and the knee's holding up great,'' Jacobson said. "I'm back to where I used to be, maybe even more confident and a lot better this year after a good offseason with Buddy in the weight room. I went through a really good rehab with him and the trainers, and now I'm ready to go.''
While some Pitt players who also were injured last season are being brought along slowly this summer, like redshirt junior defensive tackle Gus Mustakas and fifth-year senior Derek Kinder, but Jacobson said his injury was different.
"They had ACL's done,'' Jacobson said. "I had cartilage damage, the patellar tendon. The kneecap slid, and the femur came down and knocked the cartilage off my kneecap. Behind my kneecap is just cartilage and ... a hole was drilled that fills with scar tissue. That's just there to protect the back of the kneecap.
"I couldn't run for six months, was in a straight leg brace for three, on crutches for three. I couldn't do hardly anything. Everybody else was out there playing, and I just wanted to be out there with them. But I couldn't. It was tough, but I really couldn't do anything about it. I'm making up for that lost time now.''
"So, every day now, I just want to go out and prove myself to my coaches and in my mind, and we'll see what happens from here,'' Jacobson said. "But I feel real good about how things are going. I'm working real hard, behind Malecki at right guard, and I'm doing the best I can to help this football team.''
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt brought up Jacobson's name the other day.
"Chris Jacobson continues to stay healthy, and that's been great,'' Wannstedt said. "I think he's going to be a solid guy, he needs to play a whole year. If we can get to the point where he can be a swing guard, that can be a big bonus.''
Wannstedt referred to Jacobson being a primary backup for both John Malecki and senior left guard C.J. Davis. For now, though, he's working with Malecki.
"Chris Jacobson, he's going to be a heckuva player for us some day,'' Davis said. "He has a lot of talent and energy. He just has to gain some experience. He worked hard in the offseason to bounce back from that knee injury, and I'm sure it was a long road back for him. But he's ready to give it his all in camp.
"And that's what we expect from everybody. There's a lot of questions about our offensive line, I guess, but not in our minds. We believe we have the talent to be a very good offensive line. Sure, we need to prove we can play together, but we'll show that right away in camp. Just watch and see.''
Jacobson noted that this injury, the worst in his life, didn't completely heal until just a few months ago.
"When I was hurt, it was just upper body work,'' Jacobson said. "Once I could run, I started my rehab with Buddy. He did a great job rehabbing my leg, and I got my strength and quickness back. Then, at the start of summer 12 weeks ago, I was able to do everything else, what everybody else was doing.
"And I knew what I had to do coming into this season. I know that my knee is fine, but I had to show the coaches that my knee was good, too. I was real shaky about it during a couple drills in the spring. But the first day in camp, it felt great. I had no problems cutting or anything, so I'm doing well.
"There's an opportunity for everybody on our offensive line,'' Jacobson added. "We just have to take advantage of it when our number is called. We have to be ready, and I know I'll be ready when they need me.''
And it's that determination that not only got Jacobson through a brutal rehabilitation process, but also has earned him a prominent backup guard spot on Pitt's offensive line.
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