In a blink, running back Dominique Whaley’s fairytale season was over after Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown collided with him and broke his ankle.
“Oh crap. Why now? Not now,” Whaley said was his instant reaction. “It was a lot of blanked out words going on there.”
A lot of times those injuries happen so fast.
So fast that a guy can’t remember exactly what happened.
But for OU’s 5-foot-11, 204-pound walk-on turned scholarship sensation, he recalls it all.
It’s almost like it was in slow motion.
“I remember every last detail,” Whaley said. “I remember the guy landing on me, everything going numb, not being able to get up, them telling me what happened, every single part of it.”
Done for the year right then and there after scorching opponents for 627 yards and nine touchdowns on 113 carries.
Done for his career, too?
“No, I didn’t think that,” Whaley said.
Instead, in his mind, the focus even in that instant was on getting back out on the field.
In that very game.
“I mean, you guys [joke] about this: I was like, ‘Can you just like tape it or put a boot on it or something, just help me back out there,’” Whaley said. “But I didn’t think it was the end. No, I didn’t. Not at all.”
Matter of fact is it’s just another milestone in Whaley’s remarkable career that has seen him soar from benchwarmer at Langston University to feature back at one of the most prized college football programs in the country.
And he’s back for the final chapter in this, his senior season.
Whaley, who said he felt 100 percent “a long time ago” and would have participated in spring ball had there not been an educated training staff preventing him from doing so, has been up to the task so far in fall camp.
His cuts have been just fine.
He’s sustained contact so far as well.
Because of that, they haven’t limited his practice regimen.
“Dominique has looked very well,” said running backs coach Cale Gundy. “We have not managed his reps as of up till now. Obviously I’ve got several running backs, so I’m trying to get them all about the same amount of reps right now. But even today, I went over to him and said, ‘Hey, I want to try to slow you down a little bit and [he didn’t want to].”
It’s all of this which has led head coach Bob Stoops to the impression that his storied back might just be back.
“I went into their meeting room yesterday after watching the practice with the defense and I was really just struck me just watching it his [progress],” Stoops said. “An inside drill and the things he was in, he looked good, which was really encouraging. I walked into his meeting and I said, ‘Cale, Dom looked good for the first day in pads.’ And he thought the same thing. So, that’s a positive. Hopefully it keeps progressing that way.”
The speed and acceleration? That’s been there, too.
“Healthy, he’s good to go,” said quarterback Landry Jones. “Fast, just like the regular old Dom that we’re used to seeing.”
Even right guard Bronson Irwin, replacement for the injured Tyler Evans after he tore his ACL the other day, said Whaley has caught his eye.
“From what I’ve seen, he looks good,” Irwin said. “He’s cutting good, running good. I mean, I don’t really overanalyze it, but from what I see he’s running really well.”
From the sounds of it, Whaley could indeed be fully healed and poised for a breakout season.
Last year, of course, he was easily on pace for 1,000 yards before that ankle snapped.
After that, he had to watch his teammates pick up the slack in what became a disappointing 10-3 finish culminating in an Insight Bowl victory after OU was labeled as a preseason favorite to win the national championship.
He’s ready, though, to rewrite the story this time around, by being the old “Dom.”
“Same thing I did last year, run hard, protect the ball, protect the quarterback, do everything I need to do and don’t have any errors,” Whaley said.
As long as he keeps his health, he’s proven he’s more than capable of doing all those things.
And if that’s the case, the Sooner rushing attack and offense as a whole could be pretty darn special again in 2012.
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