The first two knee surgeries did not stop David Milewski from getting back on the football field, so why would the third be any different?
On the shelf last season after tearing a knee ligament, Milewski is taking the rehabilitation process slowly and is back on the field in a limited role this spring. Milewski cannot participate in contact drills, but can be on the field in his uniform.
“It's been a long time and [the first] day I was like a little kid, all jittery,” Milewski said about returning to practice in late March. “It's been so long since I've been out there. Just to be with my teammates and have a helmet on my head again, man, it's awesome. It's a blessing.”
Milewski tore his ACL in camp and did not see the field as a junior. He made major strides at defensive end, moving from middle linebacker, but went down before he could factor in as a possible starter at the R position.
Back on the field in a limited role, Milewski just wants to take things slow.
“This was my third ACL, so we kind of restricted [my rehab],” he said. “We went very slow. Any time there was swelling, we'd just shut it down and start rehabbing from there. I feel like doing that has helped me. In the long run it's going to help me. At this point, I'm hoping for the best. I'm going to rehab as hard as I can and hopefully I can catch a break.”
The third serious knee injury for Milewski was big in changing his perspective. After forcing things twice to try to earn playing time, Milewski has a new goal heading into his fourth year at Rutgers.
“At this point, I haven’t made it through a season,” he said. “All I want to do is have a chance to play 13 games. The coaches know, I’ll do whatever they want me to do. I’ll play any position. I’ll fill any role. At this point, I’m older than most of the guys. I try to lead by example. Whatever the role, I just want to do what I can given my circumstances. I want to play, obviously, but I’m here to help the team win first.”
Milewski was in a position battle with Ka’lial Glaud before his injury last year. This year, he does not know what to expect with other injuries at defensive end and young players emerging.
In his words, however, he doesn’t really care as long as Rutgers keeps winning.
“All I want to do is help this team win,” Milewski said. “Coach [Kyle] Flood always says, if you want to win, he’ll find a place for you. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ve struggled at times and caught a lot of breaks in my life so far. Just being healthy and being able to continue, I think everything else will take care of himself.”
Regardless of what happens this season, Milewski expects to face long-term knee issues.
“When I'm like 40, 50, I'm not going to have good knees anyway,” he said. “At this point, it's like a little risk. I could get hurt again, yes. But I'm still 21 years old. I feel good. My knee doesn't hurt, so as long as I can play, I'm going to try to play. I'm going to have problems anyway in the future so I might as well at least try to have fun while I'm young.”