PULLMAN – A handful of practices are behind him and James Montgomery says he’s ready to go.
“If we had a game tomorrow, I’m playing,” the senior running back said Thursday following Washington State’s first full pad practice of the season.
Such a statement isn’t usually a big deal. But in Montgomery’s case, considering how far he’s come, it is.
Eleven months ago he went down with acute compartment syndrome below his left knee, an injury that could have cost him part of his leg. Two months later he had knee surgery to repair a micro-fracture in his right knee, an injury that could have cost him his last football season.
“Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until something gets taken away from you,” said WSU strength coach Darin Lovat, who witnessed Montgomery’s efforts to get back on the field. “He’s been rehabbing like crazy and doing everything in his power to get in a position to help us.”
Montgomery, who rushed for 167 yards last season in three games, is putting the offseason’s hard work on display at practice, exploding through holes and cutting nearly as well as in the past.
“I’m pretty much on a full tank,” he said, before being pressed to put a number on his readiness. “I’m up there. We’ll say 80 percent.
“As long as I keep my base in there, bend my knees, drop my base, everything feels fine. If I do a wild cut, there are little problems, but most of the time, no pain.”
With the injuries still so recent, he isn’t going through full practices every day. He didn’t participate in Thursday’s scrimmage sessions and will only go full speed in one of today’s two workouts.
“So far he’s doing very well,” said coach Paul Wulff. “We’re being smart, we’re going to monitoring him, every once in a while take a practice off, probably not put him through any two-a-days.”
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Montgomery isn’t the only running back coming off a major injury. Senior Chantz Staden missed 2009 after suffering an ACL tear the year before.
After almost two years of rehabilitation, the junior college transfer who led WSU with 1,218 all-purpose yards in 2008, is finally back at full strength.
“It’s early in camp, but for the most part it’s feeling good,” Staden said. “I’m doing what I have to do to take care of it, cold tub every day, icing it, coming out here earlier to warm up. Just the little stuff I have to do.”
Over the summer, Staden assumed a leadership role in the weight room.
“He’s probably one of the most vocal (guys) we have,” Lovat said, praising the 5-10, 205-pound Staden’s effort. “He’s stronger now than he was before (the injury) happened.”
Like Montgomery, Staden now sees his injury as a revelation.
“When I first came here I was a little timid,” he said. “I wasn’t that confident. A year off, watching from the sidelines, I could see I can play this game.
“The year was difficult, but at the same time I feel like it helped me.”
And he thought he could use that experience to help Montgomery in his time of need. But, when Staden went to visit his teammate in the hospital right after the compartment surgery, it was the other way around.
“I was down and out when I tore my knee. I knew I was going to be able to play again and I was still down,” Staden said. “They told him he may never be able to play again and he’s laying in the hospital bed with a smile on his face.
“I get chills even now talking about it. I could not believe how strong this kid was.”