When Ben Garland injured his left hand three days before Air Force’s Sept. 19 game at New Mexico, he wasn’t thinking about getting back on the field to face the Lobos.

“The second it happened, I wanted to make sure I could play the next practice,” the senior defensive tackle said. “Wrap it up, put as much padding as you want on it, I’ve got to play.”

Garland said there was “not a chance” he would miss a game — even when trainers told him he had broken it.

“They just said you can play based on pain tolerance,” said Garland, who is tied for second on the team with 3.5 tackles for losses. “If you can handle it, you can play.”

Garland has played — and “played great,” defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said — despite having to change his technique because he cannot grab onto linemen with his left hand. And he’ll “have to play well this weekend” at Navy, coach Troy Calhoun said, because the Midshipmen often run the ball inside.

While Garland, at 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, has “as good a size body” as the Falcons have had in a while, Calhoun said, he excels in large part because of his hustle.

In the opener against Nicholls State, Garland broke into the backfield to pressure the quarterback. The Colonels’ quarterback dumped the ball to a player in the flat, but Garland didn’t give up on the play and, after a defensive back missed a tackle, Garland wound up making the stop along the sideline well down the field.

“Just hustling to the ball,” DeRuyter said. “And that’s Ben Garland. He’s just a very, very determined guy.”

And his determination to stay on the field has inspired teammates.

“If you’re on that defensive line, and you’ve got a dent in your nose,” Calhoun said, “you going to say anything when another guy’s got a broken hand?”