Maryland's Pete DeSouza speaks about recovery from serious motor scooter accident

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 24, 2010; 1:29 AM

When he's being driven around Maryland's campus, Pete DeSouza usually averts his eyes or asks the driver to avoid the Campus Drive and Union Lane intersection in front of Cole Field House. DeSouza can't bear to look at the site where a little more than a month ago, many believe, he could have lost his life.

On Tuesday, DeSouza, an affable redshirt freshman offensive lineman, spoke publicly for the first time about the Oct. 21 motor scooter accident in which he suffered season-ending fractures to both legs. Using crutches, DeSouza, a former All-Met from DeMatha, entered the Gossett Team House cafeteria with a deliberate gait and plastic boots covering both feet.

The effects of the injury are significant. He has lost 22 pounds from his 310-pound playing weight. Titanium rods remain in both legs, where they will stay the rest of his life. He pointed to where three- and two-inch long scars are visible beneath his left pant leg, including where a bone once protruded.

But overall, DeSouza's recovery is progressing faster than Maryland coaches had expected, and faster than DeSouza had expected. He does not need a walker or wheelchair. He feels some pain in his left leg, but only because it is capable of bearing weight now. He has returned to his dorm and he attends Maryland's team meetings. He is finishing two courses, completing some work online.

He undergoes at least three hours of rehab - leg extensions, toe touches, knee and hamstring stretches - every day and doctors told him the injuries would not limit his future playing ability. They told him his legs could be stronger long-term, and other players who have rods in their legs have told him that his speed could one day be better than ever. DeSouza even harbors hopes of returning on the field for spring practice, although Coach Ralph Friedgen feels that timetable is a bit optimistic.

"A lot of people think that I could have passed away," DeSouza said. "So obviously it's great that I can play football again because not a lot of people would have that opportunity. I have to take advantage of that. I also have to give back because God let me come back and play."

Friedgen said "a lot of our prayers have been answered" with the speed of DeSouza's recovery thus far, adding, "If his spirit has anything to do with a speedy recovery, I think he will be ready as fast as humanly possible."

DeSouza is among the most popular players on Maryland's team. Players said his injury has been a galvanizing force as well as a wake-up call to show how quickly everything can be taken away.

"Pete has been a rallying cry for us this season," said Danny O'Brien, Maryland's quarterback and a close friend of DeSouza who shared a suite with him last season. "We are just blessed to still have him with us, and thankful."

Some details of the accident remain too emotionally painful for DeSouza to discuss. He has had nightmares about it and thinks about it often. A little after 9 p.m. on Oct. 21, DeSouza was operating a motor scooter traveling westbound on Campus Drive when a motorist turned left in front of DeSouza. DeSouza's scooter collided with the vehicle.

DeSouza said he never lost consciousness. While on the ground, he had a cut near his eye but could move his arms. His back didn't hurt. His hips were fine. His thighs were fine. He touched his knees and they were not scraped. Then he looked at his feet and knew he was done for the rest of the season.

Once a team manager telephoned O'Brien with the news, the quarterback arrived on the scene, lifted the tarp covering DeSouza's legs and saw the extent of the damage.

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