There was a time when Missouri running back Henry Josey, Ole Miss linebacker D.T. Shackelford and Florida linebacker Ronald Powell had proven they could play college football, and excel, in the most competitive conference in the nation. Certainly at the time, they were too young to be considered certainties for the NFL. But at the very least, they were well on their way to a chance at it.
Then, career disaster befell them all in the form of serious injuries.
This fall, all three are ready to re-establish themselves simply as effective college players. Beyond that, any questions can only be answered on Saturdays. A quick look at the lengthy recoveries of each:
Henry Josey, RB, Missouri -- As a sophomore in 2011, Josey compiled the fifth-best rushing season in school history with 1,168 yards in just 10 games before a severe knee injury while playing against Texas derailed his career. The 5-10, 190-pounder averaged an incredible 8.1 yards per carry that year. But a knee injury so devastating that Tigers coach Gary Pinkel likened it to an injury more common in a car wreck than on a football field kept Josey out for all of 2012. Now, more than 20 months removed from that forgettable Texas game, he's got "I'm Back" shaved into the back of his head. And he's ready to be a dangerous weapon again in the Tigers' offense. Powermizzou.com recently wrote the definitive feature on Josey's long road back.
D.T. Shackelford, LB, Ole Miss -- From the Freshman All-SEC team in 2009 to his breakout 2010 season in which he led the Rebels in sacks (five) and made nine tackles for loss, Shackelford was well on his way to stardom after his first two years in Oxford. Then near the end of spring drills in 2011, he tore knee ligaments and missed the entire season. The following February, swelling in the knee required yet another surgery, and finally, a third surgery more than a year later put him out for the entire 2012 season. Now, like Josey, Shack is back. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has said the senior has a long way to go, understandable given that he's not played in a game in pretty close to three calendar years.
Ronald Powell, LB, Florida -- An injured knee in the spring of 2012 sidelined this promising edge rusher for the entire campaign last season. Like Shackelford, Powell led the Gators in sacks (six) before his injury. Initially projected for a midseason return last year, Powell suffered a rehab setback and required a second surgery in October. That led to questions about whether Powell would ever make it back to being the player he was, but the former five-star recruit persevered through another round of rehab. Powell received medical redshirt status for last year, which preserved his eligibility. He'll be healthy again as a junior this fall, and word around Gators camp is that Powell looks as good as he ever has.