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Ready to Start

Ready to Start

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – There were moments, rare though they may have been, when D’Eriq King couldn’t help but wonder if he’d really, truly be ready for the start of Miami’s new season.

When the MRI revealed he’d torn his ACL in late December. When he was unable to walk after surgery. When he relied on crutches to help him move. When doctors and physical therapists told him, no, it wasn’t time for him to run just yet.

But anytime the questions and doubt crept in, King did his best to refocus.

He’d gather his thoughts, put his head down and find a way to hit the next benchmark in his rehabilitation process. Now, less than eight months removed from a knee injury that left him devastated, the quarterback is ready to get back on Greentree.

He’ll have his opportunity Friday evening when the Hurricanes finally open preseason camp.

“I’ve been working my butt off all summer. I didn’t really have any weeks off. I’ve just been trying to rehab and do the best I can,” King said Wednesday. “I’m still taking it day-by-day. A lot of people don’t understand the rehab process isn’t going to end before camp starts. It’s literally going to be all year…It’s going to be a long process, but I feel awesome right now. I’m ready to go.”

That’s news teammates, coaches and Miami’s fans are, understandably, excited to hear.

“I want to see him get back to what he loves, but we’ve also seen, inside the program, the work he’s put in since his surgery and what he’s done in his rehab. You can’t forget that,” said Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz. “When our fans get to watch him play, you’ll get to see the end product, but every step along the way, all he’s done to get back on the field, he’s been relentless. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Last fall, King – a transfer from Houston – wasted little time in emerging as one of Miami’s leaders on and off the field.

He helped engineer comeback wins against both North Carolina State and Virginia Tech. He dazzled in both Miami’s 52-10 win over rival Florida State and the Hurricanes’ top-20 road win at Louisville.

King finished the year completing 64 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,686 yards and 23 touchdowns, while rushing for another 538 yards and four more scores.

He announced just before Miami’s Cheez-it Bowl matchup against Oklahoma State that he would take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to student-athletes because of the COVID-19 pandemic and excitement for the 2021 season began brewing quickly.

But with 4:06 left in the first half of that game, everything changed.

After scrambling to his right and trying to evade a would-be tackler, King went to the turf at Camping World Stadium and immediately grabbed his right knee.

He was ruled out for the rest of the game and when the Hurricanes returned to Miami, he’d learn the extent of his injury – and what he’d have to do to get back on the field.

King let himself be angry for a bit. Then he tackled his recovery and rehabilitation process full bore.

Some days were easier than others. But when things got tough, King turned to his family, his teammates and coaches for support.

“I’m not going to lie. There are days throughout the process where I’d do a workout or run and I’d have to go back in there and do an hour and a half of rehab, stuff I didn’t want to do,” King said. “But every time I’d think about stuff like that, I’d remind myself there’s a lot of people in the world going through a lot worse things than me. I have an example close to home, with my mom battling breast cancer. That’s literally life and death. Who am I to complain about a little ACL or that I’ve got to rehab and I’ve got to stay two hours more or whatever? At the end of the day, I’m still blessed to be here. I’m blessed to have my legs and to be able to walk and play the game I love. I can’t complain about that.”

"At the end of the day, I’m still blessed to be here. I’m blessed to have my legs and to be able to walk and play the game I love. I can’t complain about that.”

Quarterback D'Eriq King

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The quarterback also credits Miami’s physical therapy and athletic training staff with helping him through every step of his journey, too.

He says the guidance given to him by physical therapists Jeff Ruiz, Joe Girardi, Fernando Espinosa, Kyle Burnett and Julia Rapicavoli and athletic trainers Vinny Scavo, DJ Miller, Abbey Hess and Hannah Ellis proved invaluable.

They all, in their own ways, helped prepare him for this moment.

“They literally looked out for me every single day this whole summer,” King said after expressing his gratitude for each by name. “When I was feeling sore or hurting, I got the best treatment I could get anywhere in the city…I really appreciate all of them.”

King’s teammates rallied around the quarterback as well.

Some – like tight end Will Mallory and defensive tackle Nesta Silvera – provided encouragement as they recovered from their own injuries. Others – like Mike Harley, Charleston Rambo and Keyshawn Smith – were happy to oblige when King, unable to stand, wanted to sit and toss tennis balls with his receivers to build chemistry.

And in the spring, when King wasn’t able to participate in drills, the quarterback helped freshmen Tyler Van Dyke and Jake Garcia lead the offense through practices.

“I think my teammates inspired me more than I ever inspired them,” King said. “Seeing them go through winter workouts, seeing them go through spring ball and I couldn’t be out there with them, it hurt. But it inspired me to see them and I worked to get back out there with them…And when I got back, anytime I wanted to throw, we could run [sprints] and I’d be like ‘Let’s go throw for another 30 minutes’ and they’d always go with me, to help me get better and to help us get a better connection.”

After months of work, it’s finally time for King to really get back on the field.

He’s ready to compete against Miami’s defense and to begin the process of preparing for the Hurricanes’ Sept. 4 opener against Alabama.

And when he takes those first steps onto Greentree on Friday, he knows there will be plenty of excitement – and gratitude.

“I can’t wait to get competitive again, to get that feeling back,” King said. “I’m super excited. I literally just got out of meetings and we were going over Day One install and I can’t believe it, from not being able to walk, to having to use crutches, to just jogging, three, four, five months ago and now I’m going out there for a real practice. I’m excited. The team is excited. We’re ready to get out there. We all have one goal.”