Once upon a time, it was the death knell of many a promising football career. Then, almost nobody recovered from the dreaded torn ACL. But these are different times.
ACL repair has become commonplace, and running back LaBrandon Toefield is the injury's poster child. Toefield, a fourth-round pick from LSU, has twice torn the ACL in his left knee.
"It took me about two years to recover from the first one. The second one wasn't as hard," Toefield said.
His first ACL injury occurred in high school. Then, after laying the foundation to a promising career at LSU, Toefield tore the ACL in his left knee again, in the 2001 SEC title game.
It ended the best season of his college career; 992 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns, and 13 pass receptions for 148 yards. He came back to post respectable numbers last season (475 yards rushing and a couple of touchdowns), but they were only a shadow of what he expected to accomplish at LSU. He decided to forego his senior year and declare eligibility for the NFL Draft.
"It was a very tough decision. I feel I made the right decision. I always wanted to be a professional football player and I had a chance to do it. After what I've been through, I'm real fortunate to be where I'm at," Toefield said following the Jaguars' practice this morning at Alltel Stadium.
Desperate for a running back to replace Stacey Mack as Fred Taylor's backup, the Jaguars drafted Toefield on the projection that his repaired left knee would make another full recovery.
"This would be the second year removed from that injury. I think he should be even better," Jaguars personnel director James Harris said of Toefield.
At 5-11, 233, Toefield has power-back size. Harris described Toefield as an "inside-the-tackles runner; he can catch; he's an effective blocker." For a team that already has a feature back, Toefield would seem to be a perfect candidate for the backup spot.
"He's doing a good job of picking up the system. When you can learn and perform the way he is right now, it's a good sign," Jaguars running backs coach Anthony Lynn said of Toefield.
"I think he has the skills, the toughness, the size to fulfill that position," Lynn added.
It is one of the most important roles on this or any other team. Almost every successful team in the league boasts a one-two punch at running back. Taylor is the Jaguars' "one." Who will be their "two?"
"He played well enough last year to be drafted. If he hadn't had that injury, he would've been drafted a lot higher," Lynn said of Toefield.
The dreaded ACL? No longer.