Pete DeSouza thrilled to be back practicing with Maryland

August 20, 2011

Pete DeSouza wasn’t the best player on the field when Maryland gave Terrapin fans a look at preseason practice Saturday. He wasn’t the best offensive lineman. He wasn’t even the best right tackle.

Here’s something else DeSouza wasn’t: the guy griping about the heat, humidity or the tedium of twice-daily workouts 13 days into Coach Randy Edsall’s my-way-or-the-highway preseason camp.

That’s all DeSouza wanted in the months following the scooter accident that shattered his legs and ended his season last October. And that’s all he thought about as he sat in on team meetings but couldn’t take part in spring practice, restricted to rehabilitation work on his own.

“I missed the day-in and day-out grind of working with the offensive line, with those four other guys beside you,” DeSouza said after practice earlier this week. “I always wanted to play football again, any way, if possible. And being out here and practicing with the guys is great.”

The 6-6, 310-pound DeSouza was impossible to miss Saturday at Byrd Stadium as he worked with the reserves, his massive legs bolstered by knee braces.

His mere presence represented one more step in an arduous recovery that has included multiple surgeries on his legs, which were broken when the scooter he was riding on campus collided with a passenger car one evening.

In the weeks that followed, according to offensive lineman Pete White, DeSouza’s friend and former roommate, DeSouza’s spirits were understandably low — but less out of self-pity than guilt over having let his teammates down by getting in the accident.

“All of us just rallied around Pete and told him, ‘Look, it happened. But we’re going to be with you through the whole process,’ ” White said.

The endgame of DeSouza’s recovery is unclear. With Maryland’s coaching staff in the midst of sorting out the depth chart, neither DeSouza nor Edsall speaks in terms of a timetable or expectations for his return to the gameday lineup.

“I still have a lot of work to do,” said DeSouza, a rising sophomore from Silver Spring, who started three games at right tackle for the Terps last season after Justin Gilbert was injured. “The easy part is mentally knowing the game. You already know your plays. But getting your body back to making those steps, staying in the proper [technique] until the whistle blows — that’s harder.”

Under Edsall, Maryland football players are forbidden from riding scooters on campus. It was one of the first rules he installed after taking over for Ralph Friedgen.

DeSouza has no issue with the ban. “It’s great to walk around this beautiful campus,” he says with a smile.

And Saturday, it was great for Terrapin fans to see No. 79 on the field again.

“Good job, Pete!” one woman yelled during the autograph session that followed the workout. “Looking good!”

Asked what he has seen in DeSouza, Edsall said: “I see a young man that has a tremendous amount of courage. You see what he has gone through, and you see him out here working to try to get there. It’s a long road ahead of him. You feel for the young man. . . . Hopefully it can work out. But, like I said, he’s still got a long way to go.”

Said White: “Just to see where he came from that night till now — I don’t know what the normal recovery time is for people like that. But for Pete to be back now — and not just watching, but being out there on the field with us, out there playing, taking part in the team practices — honestly, that’s a miracle. That’s just God working. That’s a blessing.”

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post, she has also covered five Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.
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