August 18, 2011
Shortly after defensive end Ben Kopacka went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last season against Colorado State, he did the math for his timetable to return for his senior season.
“Oct. 28 is when I did it, surgery was Nov. 10, so that’s what I was really looking at, I had eight months to get this ready, can I do it?” Kopacka said.
Air Force is glad he made it back in time. Kopacka has shown he is healthy and has ascended from the second team to a regular spot with the first-team defense. Kopacka seems like the favorite to start the season at the end spot that was vacated after Rick Ricketts graduated The Falcons’ other two defensive line starters from last season, Zach Payne and Ryan Gardner, return.
Kopacka said he still isn’t totally healthy from his knee surgery, but he feels like he can play at a high level this year. He said there were some mental hurdles, but has built confidence back during camp.
“I’ve never been hurt before, so my mind was scattered,” Kopacka said. “But being able to come back on the field and focused has really helped me.”
The Falcons haven’t had many major injuries in camp. Offensive linemen Jordan Eason and Jeffrey Benson have each dealt with knee injuries, but both could return before the season opener. The most serious injury was to linebacker Ken Lamendola, who briefly had his ankle pop out of place while chasing a ball carrier during the first week of practice. He won’t return for a few more weeks, though coach Troy Calhoun said he should be back this season. Calhoun said the Falcons would be careful with his return, so he doesn’t come back too soon.
“There has to be some confidence that you develop that you know your body is fine enough that you can just deliver and explode on any physical contact,” Calhoun said.
The Falcons will hold their annual Kids’ Day event at Falcon Stadium on Saturday. There will be a scrimmage from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., then autographs afterward. The event is free.