The first day of Rutgers training camp came without the inclusion of full pads and there was no contact on the field at Rutgers. However, it was still a very special day for one Scarlet Knight who has overcome quite a bit of adversity just to make it out onto the field.
Fourth-year junior David Milewski has spent more time in the training room rehabbing than he has on the field playing during his Rutgers career.
But three ACL injuries could not keep him down.
On Friday, Milewski joined his teammates on the field as he was able to participate in every portion of practice for the first time in 21 months.
"As soon as I jogged out on the field, some of the other d-linemen were already out there and they started cheering and yelling my name," Milewski said following yestreday's practice. "It put a big smile on my face. It's been a long time, 21 months to not be able to participate and now to be practicing, it's awesome. I am so lucky."
After three ACL injuries, Milewski surprisingly will not have to play through any pain.
"I am in no pain which is a good thing. I don't have any chronic pain, any arthritis type feeling," Milewski said. "They told me in the future I will. But that is a big reason why I would even give this an attempt. After three ACL's, people like to pack it in it. I was like 'my knee doesn't hurt, I am 21 years old and I want to play.' So I took that approach."
Milewski showed up to training camp at a very impressive 247 pounds. One look at Milewski and it might seem as though surgically-repaired knee is the only thing keeping him from having a big season at defensive end.
But that is not how Milewski is seeing things.
"My knee is definitely 100 percent. But I had 21 months of not competing at a high level. This is division 1 football. So not playing for 21 months and then jumping into a division 1 practice, there is rust there. So the knee is not necessarily holding me back. It's more like getting my athleticism back and opening my hips and adjusting to the speed of the play again. I feel like that is the biggest adjustment. During the play, I am not thinking 'oh my gosh, this is going to hurt my knee.' I just keep playing."
Milewski figured to play a role at the 'R' defensive end position, but he has started out summer at the 'E' defensive end position where Jamil Merrell is the starter.
"It's a matter of where they need me. They told me I need to know multiple positions," Milewski said. "Right now, there is a lot of good competition at the 'R' so I want to be as selfless as possible. I will play wherever I can help the team. If they think I can help the best at the 'R' then I will play there."
Day No.1 of summer camp is already in the books and for some, it may have been just another ordinary practice.
However, that was not the case for Milewski.
"It is something else. It really put a big smile on my face to be out on the field again," Milewski said. "It is truly a blessing. I have been praying about it. I made it through the first practice and I feel pretty good. I just want to keep this ball rolling now."