With the NFL combine officially beginning Wednesday in Indianapolis and defensive backs scheduled for later this weekend, former Maryland cornerback Dexter McDougle sat down to chat about recovering from his gruesome shoulder injury and the long road to the professional ranks. He is the only Maryland player invited to the combine this season and carries with him months of rehabilitation, not to mention childhood dreams born when he often stared into the candles on birthdays and blew them out while wishing he could make the NFL. Here are some leftover quotes from our conversation:
** “I’m not going to let injuries stop me. I’ve been in this position before. In high school I missed my junior year when I broke my hand. Went back the next year and just killed it. I just know this injury can’t stop me. I’m definitely ahead of schedule. Everyone’s impressed with where I’m at right now. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder, man. I didn’t end it how I wanted to. I know I was going to have the season that I really wanted, that I put the work in for. So I’m putting the work in again now. I’m over the injury. I’m over everything. I’ve got tunnel vision right now. Nothing can stop me. That’s how I feel. I just feel I’m going to impress some people.”
** “When I was injured, you have those days when you’re sitting there and you’re like, ‘Dang, if I had kept playing, who knows what would’ve happened.’ You just think about it, how it was going. The game was just … I feel like all the experience I had, I understood the game so good. I knew certain situations. The game was like slower for me. When you first start playing, it’s fast. When you get that experience, it slows down. I was really understanding everything, understanding the plays I could make in certain situations within the defense. I put that work in in the offseason. You always look back like, ‘Dang, what could’ve been, what could’ve been.’ I can’t get it back. But believe I’m not done playing football. That’s for sure.”
** “I swear, every birthday, you blow the candles out, every wish is I want to play in the NFL. That’s my wish. Every time, since I was a little kid. All the way up to now. I’m this close. I just want to make my dream come true. Through everything that happened, I’m this close. I could just taste it. I’m ready. I don’t want to rush back in. I want to do it when I’m 100 percent. Just know that when it’s time, I plan on doing what I’ve got to do”
** “I’ve watched it a lot. When you watch the video [of the U-Conn. game, when he suffered the injury], I punched the ground with that arm. I guess it was adrenaline or something. Then I felt it move. I felt it slide. Yeah it’s out, it’s out. It was the worst pain. I tried to put it back in, but it wouldn’t go. I started screaming. It hurt so bad. They had me in a stable position. When they went into the training room, they were trying to put it in for a good 30, 40 minutes. But it just wasn’t going. They didn’t know why. They didn’t know it was fractured. They thought it was dislocated. But they finally did this thing where you can get an X-ray image. They could see the fracture: ‘Okay, you need to go to the hospital.’ Yeah it was bad. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
“It was the worst. I think about that and I start sweating. Reliving it is like … God, I never want to go through that pain again. Having five or six people in there, holding me down, a couple guys on my arm, the doctor trying to put it back in, using all his strength to put it back in. It would go in and slide back out, go in and slide back out.
“I just wanted to see what would happen, how I really hit the guy. Some people can’t look back at it. But I can look at it. If I had a broken leg or something, I can’t watch stuff like that. But you can’t even really tell from my injury. I was just rolling around. It wasn’t that bad. Injuries like [Louisville guard] Kevin Ware, I haven’t looked at that video, because I heard it was just bad. I can’t look at the video. Bones exposed, stuff like that, I can’t look at. But as far as my injury, I can look at it. Just see what happened.”
** “When I asked Dr. [Craig] Bennett, he said the earliest you could come back is two to three weeks. Okay. That’s fine. That’s what people don’t understand about us players and how much we care about this game. I know as far as me, I’m concerned, I had a very serious injury at the end of my college career. At the time, I didn’t know it was the end. The first time I asked the doctor was how long. Not how bad, what happened. I asked how long. I don’t think people understand how much the game really means to certain people. Not my health, not my shoulder, no when can I get back and play. When can I get back to help my team and contribute?”
** When I work, I feel like people acknowledge it and see my work ethic. I can remember older guys, when I first came in, mad at me because I was working so hard. How are you going to be mad at me? I’m trying to get on the field. I’m not going to dumb it down for nobody. That’s what I’m going to do.
** The goal was to be back for Pro Day, show everybody what I could do then. Then I got the invite [to the combine]. We had to weigh out our options. Definitely Pro Day. April 8. That’s the day for my next goal, what I expect out of myself, to really impress the scouts. My goal is to get drafted. That’s my goal. That’s just something that I feel like I still have ultimate control over that – how I do on my pro day I feel will definitely determine whether that happens or not. If I don’t, just to get the opportunity, that’s all I need. Just make the most of it. That’s what I got going for me right now.”