Camp start: Thursday
Opener: Southeastern Louisiana in Columbia, Mo. (Sept. 1 on pay-per-view at 7 p.m. EDT)
Fun fact: The only member of Missouri's staff with experience in the SEC is offensive line coach Josh Henson, who was LSU's tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator from 2005 to '08 before becoming the first assistant Gary Pinkel hired.
Forget all this talk of the Missouri Tigers being excited about playing football in the Southeastern Conference.
Elvis Fisher is thrilled just to play.
The 6-foot-5, 295-pound left tackle from St. Petersburg, Fla., was prepping for his fifth-year senior season last August when he sustained an unfamiliar injury. Fisher ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee, which can be every bit as brutal as a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"I wasn't too sure of the injury at the time and asked how long I would be out, and I was told it would be a while and that it was pretty serious," Fisher said at SEC media days. "I didn't understand it because I thought it was just an ACL because that was the most common. I wasn't sure what it was so I did some research, and I found out it was a pretty devastating injury.
"I talked to the doctors and training staff, and they told me about the surgery and the rehab plan."
Fisher started all 40 games for the Tigers during the 2008-10 seasons, and the thought of not even applying for a medical hardship and a sixth season certainly crosssed his mind. He said he got on Google and found that roughly 20 people in the NFL during the past decade had sustained his injury and that half quit playing.
"I was kind of in the dumps for a while," he said.
In a ghastly coincidence, Tigers running back Henry Josey tore his patellar tendon along with his ACL and MCL during a 17-5 win over Texas last November. Josey ranked second in the Big 12 and 12th nationally with 116.8 rushing yards a game at the time of his injury.
Josey is not expected to be healthy enough to play this season.
Fisher began his recovery by keeping his left leg perfectly straight for five to six weeks, when the stitches came out. A couple of days later, doctors and trainers started moving his knee, and he didn't walk without assistance until three months after the injury.
"I definitely learned how to walk again," Fisher said. "To be immobilized for five or six weeks, you forget how to walk, and it's really terrifying at first when they first started moving it. They had to move it for me to crank that tendon back to where it could move the whole range of motion."
Fisher is among three returning Missouri offensive linemen with starting experience, and coach Gary Pinkel is welcoming his return.
"With his experience level and his leadership level, he brings so much more than just being a good football player," Pinkel said. "I think he's worked tremendously hard to get back. He's been very positive, and we're excited that he came back for a final season."
Said Fisher: "It's been about accomplishing the little steps every day. Once I got over the initial shock of it, it was a lot better."
The Tigers have been effective offensively in recent years with stellar quarterback play from Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and James Franklin, who returns for his junior season after completing 238 of 376 passes a year ago for 2,865 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Franklin, who also rushed for 981 yards and 15 scores last season, tore the labrum in his right shoulder this spring but is expected to be ready for Thursday's start to preseason camp.
How Missouri's spread offense fares in the SEC may be the most intriguing question facing the Tigers. They averaged 475.4 yards and 32.85 points a game last season, but they will face four league defenses -- Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida -- that finished among the top 10 nationally a year ago.
"I have no idea," Fisher said. "I just play offensive line and don't pay attention to what offenses work and what offenses don't work. All I know is that what we do works, so we're going to keep going with that."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...