The Washington Post

Patuxent’s Rafiq Douglas bounces back from knee injury

Patuxent’s Rafiq Douglas, shown here catching a touchdown against Huntingtown, has an offer from Fordham and hopes to add more this summer. (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

Rising senior running back Rafiq Douglas injured his left knee in Patuxent’s 29-27 Maryland 2A South playoff loss to Douglass, though the specifics remain unclear.

Douglas remembers feeling a twinge early in the fourth quarter as he chased an Eagle rusher out of bounds from his linebacker spot, but the 6-foot-1, 205-pound bulldozer stayed in the game and later plowed into the end zone for the go-ahead score with less than two minutes left.

Coach Steve Crounse has watched the tape of the Nov. 10 contest several times and struggled to pinpoint the moment Douglas wrenched his meniscus. The pain did little to din Douglas’s effectiveness on either side of the ball down the stretch with the Panthers playing for their season.

“He’s such a physical back,” Crounse said. “He dishes it out and takes it the entire game. He didn’t ever get hit directly on the knee. It must have been [on a play] when he was dragging the Douglass kids around.”

A certainty out of that murkiness: Douglas hasn’t been back to normal since. After December surgery and three months on crutches, he has been back to football activities for nearly two months, and the arduous road to recovery is nearly complete.

Next Monday, Douglas expects to be cleared for contact, and after that, he’s slated to attend camps at several Football Bowl Subdivision schools, hoping to make up for lost time in his recruitment.

Douglas picked up his first scholarship offer last week from Fordham based off his strong game film, but he believes more offers will begin flowing in once he can get in front of coaches and show his speed has returned, despite the lengthy rehabilitation process.

“It’s been kind of stressful,” said Douglas, who rushed for 1,363 yards with 16 total touchdowns last fall. “I’ve been hearing about a lot of people out there at camps showing out. As a football player and as a competitor, you don’t want anyone being better than you. But I have to take my time and let [the knee] heal. I don’t want to reinjure it. I know I have to put my ego aside and do what’s best for myself.”

Douglas, who doesn’t turn 17 until August, has received interest from several Bowl Championship Series schools, including Temple, Boston College, Connecticut, Rutgers and Wake Forest. With a 3.5 grade point average, a solid SAT score and an interest in engineering, he has also caught the eye of Ivy League and Colonial Athletic Conference schools in the Football Championship Subdivision.

So far, Douglas has stayed away from camps this summer, fearing a poor showing before he is fully healthy. Provided he is cleared at his next doctor’s visit, he plans to attend camp at Maryland on June 26 and will likely head to Rutgers the next day with a trip to Penn State possible after that.

Crounse said Douglas will likely run the 40-yard dash at Maryland, hoping to clock in at 4.6 seconds, his pre-injury mark.

With more than 25 schools showing interest, the coach believes more offers will materialize once Douglas has a chance to work out for recruiters. He has been pleased with the player’s approach to the slow-starting process so far.

“He’s got it in perspective and asking the right questions,” Crounse said. “We’re trying to land him in a place he’s comfortable.”

Douglas has been participating in 7-on-7 competitions with Patuxent and said he mostly feels uninhibited by his knee. But a few times, he has experienced stiffness or light swelling after workouts, normal parts of the recovery process and reminders that he’s not quite there yet.

“When the doctor tells me to go [without restriction], then I can finally go,” Douglas said. “Get all that tentativeness out of my brain. It’s really a mental thing.”

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