Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — Darius White wasn’t taking any chances.
The senior receiver has missed four games this season with multiple groin injuries, and when asked how tough the process had been, he decided not to tempt fate.
“Very frustrating, man. Not trying to jinx myself or anything—”
He paused and turned to find a wood table to knock on.
“I mean, I’ve never had an injury until now.”
His first injury was a partially torn right groin suffered in Missouri’s home loss to Indiana. Then, after a month of recovery time, he strained his left groin in practice while accelerating out of a catch.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was in disbelief.
“I mean, unbelievable,” he said after Missouri’s defeat of Vanderbilt, the first game after White’s second injury. “I feel so bad for him. He’s never been hurt in his life.”
White thinks he injured the left groin by overcompensating for the right. He said he might have been able to play a week later against Kentucky, but with a bye week approaching, he decided to play it safe. Plus, the next game, Saturday at Texas A&M, is in White’s home state.
“I’m still working on getting everything back,” he said, “but this is a game I definitely wanted to be in.”
The offense could use him. Missouri’s passing game is at the statistical basement of the Southeastern Conference, and White’s absence has necessitated the use of inexperienced receivers like freshman Nate Brown. With a quarterback who has struggled this season and a receiving corps already hurting from a bounty of offseason losses, White’s return was a much needed one.
Heck, his replacement even suffered the same injury. Junior Wesley Leftwich, who made his first career start in White’s absence, missed two games with a strained groin.
White was hesitant to concede to Missouri’s offensive struggles without him.
“When I’m not there, our offense is still there,” he said. “I mean, we’ve just been struggling this past couple of weeks — I wouldn’t say it’s struggling — I mean, everybody has their ups and downs. We’ve just been having our downs, but we’ve been able to pull the win out. That’s the main part about it.”
Though White used phrases like “if I make the trip” in regards to Saturday’s game, he said he should be ready to go.
“I’ve been going to treatment every day just trying to get it better,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s just like everything is gone, but it’s part of football. You’re going to have to play with pain sometimes, but it’s a pain that I can work with.”
His teammates are happy to see him back.
“(Sunday) we had a really strong practice,” quarterback Maty Mauk said. “Just to see him out there, making the cuts and stuff that he was earlier in the year, it’s just a good feeling for a quarterback to have all your guys healthy and out there.”
Senior receiver Bud Sasser added: “I’m glad that he’s back. Senior guy, a senior receiver as well. We need that in our offense.”
Sitting out wasn’t always easy for White, who is new to the whole injury thing, after all.
“I tried to find myself asking why, but I didn’t,” he said. “I just went back in, kept myself humble, man. I prayed and prayed about it, gave it to God. It’s been days when — totally, totally frustrating, man. The most frustrating thing, man, because nothing ever really happened like this (to me). But it did.”
Needless to say, he’s excited to return to the field, especially with the Tigers sitting in first place in their division.
“Very excited, man,” White said. “Very. That’s why we’ve got to go out and just have a great week of practice just receiver-wise. Even as the whole team, but receiver-wise, we’ve got to go out and have a good practice, because this game, this game is going to be—”
He paused again. Not because of superstition this time but because of a struggle to translate emotions into soundbites.
“It’s going to be a great game.”