They all remember the pain from the initial impact. They remember being helped off the field and thinking, "It's not so bad." They remember the terrible feeling when they realized it was bad.
And they all remember thinking, "My God, this can't be happening to me ".
It happened to Lloyd Burruss, Marlin Van Horn and Eric Sievers within a space of three weeks last year. All three seniors. All three preseason all-Atlantic Coast Conference picks. All three with pro potential. All three wiped out before the season was two weeks old.
"The only good thing about the whole year," said Burruss, "was that we had each other to commiserate with, to cry on each other's shoulders."
One year later, all three are trying to come back: Burruss from a torn ligament in his ankle, Van Horn from knee surgery, Sievers from a broken bone in the knee and a blood clot in his leg. All three are fifth-year seniors at Maryland wanting desperately for this last go-round to work out.
"We've all worked so hard," Sievers said. "All of us just want to get back on that field in a game so we know we can still do it."
Saturday, when the Terps open their 1980 season in Byrd Stadium against Villanona, Burruss, Sievers and Van Horn hope to be in uniform. They hope to be able to play.
Right now, however, all they can do is hope. None of them has practiced this week. Burruss was walking to class last Thursday when he felt a shooting pain in his ankle. It still is quite sore. Van Horn and Sievers both suffered twisted ankles in the first scrimmage two weeks ago. They have not had contact work since then.
All three are willing to crawl into the field, if necessary. Each has worked for almost a year, pointing for this day.
"I'm at the point now where going onto that field is going to be like a warrior going into battle," Burruss said. "It's been a long year for all of us. Just the thought of not being able to play is enough to blow your mind away completely."
From the first day that he arrived on the Maryland campus as a wide-eyed freshman from Charlottesville, Lloyd Burruss had the stamp of stardom on him. Before his freshman season was over, he was a starting defensive halfback. By 1978, his junior year, he was an all-ACC player and was honorable mention on several all-American teams. Clearly, 1979, his senior year, was to be filled with glory.
"I was so psyched up, so ready to play," Burruss said, sitting in the dorm room he shares with Sievers, as a rerun of "Love, American Style" droned on in the background. "I was ready for a big year. I was thinking about being drafted by the NFL. Then, all of a sudden, it happened."
It had been a rainy day and the field was wet when the Terps went out for a practice 10 days before the start of the season. "There was mud on the field," Burruss said. "I went to make a tackle and my foot got stuck in the mud for a second and I couldn't move. Before I could get out of there (defensive end), Jimmy Shaffer fell on it.
"At first, there was no pain and I thought I was okay. But then as I was being helped off I looked down and I could see the swelling coming right through the tape on my ankle. I knew then it was real bad.
At the hospital, X-rays confirmed that Burruss' leg was broken. It was the next day, when he went to be examined by team doctor Stan Lavine, that Burruss found out about the ligament in his ankle and was told by Lavine that he would need an operation.
"After the operation, the first couple of weeks were just the pits," he said. "Going to the games was the worst thing. I felt like such a nonperson. I didn't feel as if I was part of it at all."
Throughout the fall, while their teammates practiced, Burruss, Sievers and Van Horn spend interminable hours in the weight room trying to rehabilitate themselves.
"The three of us would sit in his room for hours talking," Burruss said. "We became inseperable. We just kept reminding one another that we were lucky because we all had a chance to come back next year. It kept us all going: the thought of getting the chance to come back."
When Burruss rejoined the team in spring drills, he found he couldn't do things that had come easily before. Cuts were harder; so was acceleration. He was blowing plays he had handled with ease in the past. He wondered if he could really come back.
"I wondered," he said, "if I could be Lloyd Burruss again."
The spring game, he found out. After sitting up most of the night psyching himself up, Burruss blocked two fieldgoal attempts and played superbly in the defensive backfield. He was back.
"Then, over the summer, the ankle starting acting up again," he said. "I kept waiting for it to get better. But when I came back, I knew it wasn't right. I knew it was going to give me problems again. Doc says it just gets irritated and needs rest for a couple of days. I sure hope so. I've waited too long for this to wait another day much less another week.
Like Burruss, Eric Sievers was a factor at Maryland almost from the day he arrived on campus. As a freshman, he played enough to letter and earn a spot on the Cotton Bowl, he caught his first collegiate pass-for a touchdown. s
He was a starter as a sophomore and a junior and started 1979 with the star stamp on him.He was to be one of the team leaders. It started out that way. He caught three passes in the opening 24-20 win over Villanova and caught another in the first half of game two at Clemson.
Then, the third quarter. A running play (naturally). Siever went to make a block. "I was trying to turn my man to the outside when I suddenly felt this pain on the back of my leg," Sievers remembered. "I went down like a rock. At first I thought it was a Clemson guy but later on film I saw it was (offensive guard) Kervin Wyatt, who was trying for second effort on his man.
When Sievers returned home, an arthroscopic examination of his knee showed no ligament or cartilage damage. But when pain in his legs persisted, further tests were done. They revealed the blood clot. Sievers was in the hospital three weeks.
"I was lucky Marlin was there the same time I was," Sievers said. "At least we had each other to talk to. One day I'd cheer him up, the next day he'd cheer me up. We really needed each other."
Sievers fought his way back, worked hard all spring and summer and came to preseason camp ready for his last year of college football. Then, like a bug that won't be shooed away, problems started again. This time, the ankle.
"It isn't that serious," Sievers said, "but it sure is frustrating. I'm so close, so ready to play, in such good shape and I haven't had contact for 10 days. I'm kind of depressed. There's no next year now, no chance to red-shirt. I want this to be a great year. I want this to be a whole year." r
He rubbed his ankle and stared at it almost angrily. "I don't want to be carrying an anchor around with me all season. I have too much time and effort invested in it already."
One look at Marlin Van Horn tells you he is a football player. At 6 feet 1, 245 pounds, he looks more like a one-story brick building than a college senior.
It was the second quarter against Villanova. "I did a stunt inside the guard and center and went to tackle the ball carrier," Van Horn said, sitting outside the football field house on a hot summer afternoon. "Just as I went for the ball carrier, the guy I had gone by came back and got me on the knee. I felt a burning sensation. It took my breath away.
"But first there was the numbing sensation. I got to the sidelines, sat down a minute and got up to see how it was so I could go back in. I took about two steps and Doc came over and told me to sit down, that it was bad and I was going to need an operation.
"Right then I lost my composure. About a million things went through my mind all at once. Will I ever play again? How can this be happening? Why me? Is it a nightmare?
"A lot of people don't realize but those 11 games are the easy part of football. Nobody can know the horrible feeling of working all year round just for those 11 games, then all of a sudden in one instant being cut off from all that completely.
"But the worst thing was getting out of the hospital and having to sit by and watch us lose. I turned the Kentucky game off on the radio. I couldn't take it. And then, Eric, Lloyd and I would find ourselves sitting around thinking: 'Is it our fault? Would it be different if we could play? It was an awfully empty feeling. A feeling of total helpessness."
Van Horn went through spring ball. He survived the early timidity he felt about getting hit. Then, in summer practice came the ankle injury. Now, he can only wait and hope treatments make it possible for him to play Saturday.