Gophers cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun tore his ACL in Minnesota's second game of the season last year against New Mexico State.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
MINNEAPOLIS — Briean Boddy-Calhoun had every right to be bummed out.
Just when the Gophers cornerback was playing perhaps the best football of his career, his season came to a screeching halt. Boddy-Calhoun tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Minnesota’s second game of the season last year against New Mexico State when a teammate rolled into his left knee. As soon as the diagnosis came, he knew what he was in for: months and months of rehab and, more significantly, no football for a long time.
As much as it killed Boddy-Calhoun to stand on the sideline with crutches as his Gophers teammates jumped out to an 8-2 start, the Delaware native maintained perspective on the entire situation. He was granted a medical redshirt year and will now be a junior, not a senior, during the 2014 season.
Boddy-Calhoun has since returned to the field for Minnesota’s spring practices, and he’s done so with a big smile on his face. An injury that can take so much from a player both physically and mentally couldn’t damper Boddy-Calhoun’s spirit.
"I’m naturally a positive guy," he said. "I don’t like negativity, so I was positive from Day 1. I never turned back."
Before Boddy-Calhoun’s season ended last year, he showed flashes of being a very good cornerback for Minnesota. In the first game of the year against UNLV, he intercepted a pass and returned it 89 yards for a touchdown — the third-longest interception return in school history. Boddy-Calhoun previously played in all 13 games during his first year with the Gophers in 2012 after transferring from Coffeyville Community College.
As part of a secondary that appeared to be a strength of Minnesota’s defense, Boddy-Calhoun looked the part of an impact player. Then he blew his knee out, and his season came crashing down.
"I’m telling you, this is a very, very hard injury mentally. It really hurts you mentally, because you go from having a 37-inch vert(ical) to not being able to walk for four months," said Boddy-Calhoun, who was also a standout basketball player in high school. "It’s very taxing and it really hurts you mentally because you just can’t do the simple things you’re able to do. It hurts to just sit on the couch, stuff like that. It really, really hurts you mentally and it really hurts when your team is still playing and they’re having success like an 8-2 season and you’re like, ‘Wow, I really want to be out there.’"
Through all of the rehab and the early mornings in the training room, Boddy-Calhoun had a voice telling him to stay positive and keep pushing on. That would be the voice of Marcus Jones, a fellow defensive back who has twice torn his ACL during his time at Minnesota.
After his second ACL injury in 2012, Jones could have easily called it quits and nobody would have blamed him. But he stayed persistent and bounced back once again. He’s now fully healthy entering his senior season.
Boddy-Calhoun learned a lot from Jones since that fateful game against New Mexico State last September.
"I always talk about you judge somebody by controversy, adversity when you have challenges in life. Those two have had them," said Gophers head coach Jerry Kill. "Both of them have had a great attitude. They’ve battled back. Marcus has been through a ton in his situation. They’re both moving around good. That’s a credit to the hard work they’ve put in because it’s not easy doing all that rehab and up in the morning and in the afternoon.
"It’s hard to have a positive attitude, but they certainly have done that."
Boddy-Calhoun has been wearing a green no-contact jersey during spring practices, and Minnesota has been careful about how it’s brought him back since his surgery. Because his injury happened so early in the year last season, he should be ready to go by the season opener Aug. 28 against Eastern Illinois.
After watching his team continue to make strides while he was unable to contribute, Boddy-Calhoun was understandably eager to get back on the field.
"It’s amazing how fast he’s come back. I’m the one who’s telling him to slow down right now because I don’t want something to happen that delays him," said Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. "He’s a tough kind and strong. . . . He’s done a good job with the rehab. He’s a team leader. His positive attitude helps everybody on the team."