PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Many Pitt fans remember last year’s 31-3 loss to Miami as the low point of the season.
For red shirt sophomore linebacker Dan Mason, it was the low point for a different reason — it was the last time he would play, and could have been the final game of his career.
But when KDKA-TV Sports sat down with Mason for his first television interview since his gruesome knee injury last year, you’d never know how just how bad it was.
“It feels awesome, I mean, just being back in the atmosphere,” Mason says. “I mean, being around the teammates and everything, hearing the football language and everything. I love it all.”
Mason has resumed practicing this summer, and though he’s yet to be cleared for contact, the fact that he’s even running, let alone playing football, is a huge accomplishment.
“They said my knee would never be the same again,” Mason said before one recent practice, “but I’m proving them wrong with that right now.”
His knee still may never truly be the same, after suffering one of the most horrific injuries imaginable last season against the Hurricanes.
“I think about it ’cause I was so stupid just,” Mason says with a smile. “I love getting contact so as he was going down I wanted to give him an extra shot, and I guess I blinked or something and he went lower than I thought he was gonna go. He took out my knee.”
Mason initially didn’t know the damage that had been done. He thought he had torn his ACL. If only.
“I rolled over and I looked down and saw my knee poking out. I was like ‘Oh man.'”
“I saw some of my teammates running the other way grossed out and everything.”
“[The bone] wasn’t poking out of my skin, but you could see the form of the bone poking out. It didn’t break the skin.”
Mason was put on a stretcher and carted off, and soon learned how bad it was. His knee was nearly completely destroyed: dislocated kneecap, torn ligaments, nerve damage.
“They said I could possibly play football again,” Mason said, “but you give me that slight little chance and I’m gonna take it very far.”
It’s taken 5 surgeries, and he still needs the nerve that was stretched and pulled during the injury, to return to normal.
Until then, Mason can’t return to contact or game action. But there have been times he’s snuck his way into a play during practice, before coaches were forced to get him off the field. He tells us this with a laugh, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some dark times through his recovery.
“It was tough at first,” he says. “March, January, [that time] was real tough because I wasn’t where I wanted to be at that time.”
“I wondered ‘Why me?’ but I only did that for a day or two because you’ve gotta move on. This is nothing I can’t come back from. And this injury happened so that I can come back from it and can show others you can do anything when God strengthens you.”
“I can be back this year. I will be back this year.”