Dave Rowe thought his son was joking. On Sunday afternoon, the man who helped train a gunslinger through backyard drills received a call from Caleb Rowe, Maryland’s freshman quarterback, who delivered the heartbreaking news. He, like the Terps’ three other scholarship quarterbacks, had suffered a season-ending injury and would miss the remainder of the 2012 season.
“I said, ‘It’s not funny, Caleb,’ ” Dave said. “It was shocking. I couldn’t believe it.”
A discouraged Rowe had torn his ACL during Saturday’s 20-17 loss at Boston College on Maryland’s penultimate play from scrimmage, when he darted to the far sideline and tumbled out of bounds. The Terps punted on the next play and Rowe returned with less than a minute left, only to throw an interception on first down.
But the following morning, his first collegiate start and first collegiate loss still lingering in his mind, Rowe awoke to a stiff, swollen knee. He hobbled to Gossett Team House to visit team trainers, and the ensuing MRI revealed the damage. Rowe, Perry Hills and C.J. Brown have all torn their ACL this season; Devin Burns suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in his foot.
“He called us, he was of course discouraged a little bit,” Dave Rowe said when reached Monday by phone. “I said you’ve got to control what you got to control. Schoolwork, being a teammate, working hard on the rehab, that’s the way life is.”
According to Dave Rowe, Caleb’s exact surgery date is currently unknown, but he mentioned Nov. 8 as a possibility. Until then, the doctors want Rowe to condition the muscles around his knee, reduce swelling and regain full flexibility, which will make for an easier surgery and quicker recovery.
“We talked to the doctors, the doctor was very optimistic, sounds like he’s very experienced,” Dave Rowe said. “I asked him how many of these surgeries he’s done, and he said thousands. It made me and his mom feel better, hearing that this type of surgery has a 95 percent success rate. We’ll get through, and his left knee should be stronger than his other. We were encouraged by that.”
The way doctors described the injury to the Rowe family, Caleb suffered a partially torn ACL, unlike the “explosive-type” injury seen in both Hills and Brown. Surgeons will take a part of Rowe’s cartilage between the upper femur and knee cap, then graft it to the existing ACL ligament. The recovery period, Dave Rowe said, should be six to eight weeks shorter than Caleb’s teammates, around five to six months overall.
The intensely competitive Rowe, who threw for 240 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in Chestnut Hill, Mass., was dejected upon receiving the bad news, thinking he had disappointed the Terrapins.
“That was his biggest concern, that he let his team down. Not his knee but the fact that he wouldn’t be able to help the team,” Dave Rowe said. “I told him, he can’t feel like that. He competed his rear end off and did everything he needed to do. It’s a tough break.”
Caleb was raised on faith, his father a 30-year member of the ministry. In January, Dave Rowe was diagnosed with Leukemia. He’s in remission now, taking daily chemotherapy pills for the next year and a half, until a bone biopsy will hopefully clear him altogether.
“You believe that God is real and God has a plan for your life,” Dave Rowe said. “And I do. It was a great comfort to me as I went through my chemotherapy and hard days in the hospital to realize that God loved me and he had a plan for my life.
“I think Caleb watching me go through that will help him go through his stuff. He’s a very, very strong young man, has a deep faith in the Lord, and it’s going to pay off for it. He’ll learn things about Jesus through this he wouldn’t have learned without the struggles. It’ll make him a better man down the road.”