By John Shinn
If there’s a prototype for a run-stuffing defensive tackle, odds are it would like a lot like Oklahoma’s DeMarcus Granger. The 6-foot-2, 330-pound senior is about as close a human can get to being an immovable object.
That size, however, can have consequences.
Granger has been a standout player throughout his first three seasons at OU. He’s been a consistent force since 2006 and was even an all-Big 12 pick back in 2007.
One has to wonder what he could have done those years if there hadn’t been a nagging pain in his back.
It started as a pain that would come and go. Then late last season it never left.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t take it no more,” Granger said.
But Granger has proven he can handle the pain. The bad back never forced him to miss a game until late last year. He also made a quick recovery from a foot injury early last year. He could have missed the whole season, but instead only missed two games.
“He’s not one to be out a long time,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
But when OU’s team physicians told him last December he needed to have surgery or risk never being able to play again, he knew it was serious.
He’d already experienced a comeback season that year. He had to earn back some respect from his teammates after being sent home from the Fiesta Bowl the previous year after stealing a jacket from an Arizona mall. His lightning quick comeback from the foot injury was big in the locker room.
What he faced this past offseason was much tougher.
At some point football players have to think about their life beyond the game. The sport tankes an incredible physical toll. All have to ask themselves how long they want to stay on the road.
When doctors and trainers are talking about a must-have surgery to keep playing, there’s a good place to look for an exit.
“It crosses everyone’s mind when something like that happens,” defensive tackle Adrian Taylor said. You only have one back. You can’t go to Wal-mart and get another one of those.”
Granger admitted those things weren’t really crossing his mind going into the surgery, but the thoughts were present as he went through the lengthy rehab. Getting a back in shape is tough for someone in any line of work. Getting it strong enough to play football is in a different stratosphere.
“It was frustrating because I used to do everything full speed and I was used to being ready to go,” he said. “I just had to slow down and be patient. It came slow, but it came along.”
Granger said he’s pain free for the first time in years. His body feels good. Now it’s just matter of getting himself in playing shape. The rehab kept him out of team workouts during the offseason. There was a ton of running he missed that caught up to him in a hurry when practice began.
“Granger has spurts. He’s trying to make his comeback and he’s doing his best to make it,” McCoy said. “He’s struggling a little bit, but for the most part he’s looking good. From the things I’ve seen, he’s getting back to his old self.”
How far he’s able to come along will determine how big a role Granger plays this season. He believes it will take all of August for him to get back in playing shape. Coaches and teammates agree. Granger’s striding in the right direction.
He just sees it as another challenge to face.
“Some people go through things that make them stronger mentally and physically,” Granger said. “I think I’m one of those people who has to go through a lot of things to see how much this truly means to you.”