After catching a pass out of the backfield Tuesday, Bryan Fitzgerald looked sharp and comfortable when he cut upfield near the right sideline. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga running back looked like someone eager for his Mocs football career to continue.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Fitzgerald said following the players' voluntary 7-on-7 practice at Scrappy Moore Field.
In April, following his second surgery on his left foot in six months, Fitzgerald decided not to use the sixth year of eligibility he was given by the NCAA. His foot was hurting too much, and the recovery process appeared too long and perilous.
He has since had a change of heart.
"I went in and talked to (Mocs coach Russ Huesman) and said I made a mistake," said Fitzgerald, who was leading the Southern Conference in rushing when a foot injury on Oct. 10 knocked him out for the rest of the 2009 season.
"I've been working out and working hard to get my foot back healthy. ... All the guys are excited for me, and I'm excited for myself."
Fitzgerald, who missed the 2008 season with a knee injury, was averaging 109.3 yards per game before the injury, which required surgery to put three screws in his foot. In March, with his foot still giving him major problems, the screws were removed.
Huesman said he thought Fitzgerald was done for good before he told him last month that he wanted to try to play this season.
"He wanted to take a shot and do this, and I'm glad he is," Huesman said. "I think part of it is he got away from us and the football team and maybe realized that he missed it, and at the same time he started to feel healthy."
Huesman said Fitzgerald's status for the 2010 season will largely be determined by the rehab work he and head athletic trainer Todd Bullard do in the weeks ahead.
"He's got to get treatment every day, he's got to get healthy, and let's just go through July and see how he feels," Huesman said. "He's got a lot of work to do, but all the reports I'm getting are positive. If he comes back and he comes back healthy, he's one of the better players in this league."