February 23, 2014 Updated: February 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm
Kale Pearson saw his junior season - his first as Air Force's starting quarterback - end early in the second quarter of the first game, as he tore his ACL on a carry against Colgate. Pearson is back practicing with the team this spring on a limited basis as, though he is still limited by the injury. "He has been as vigorous with his rehab as you can possibly be," said coach Troy Calhoun, who briefly entertained with the idea of pushing spring ball back in the calendar to allow Pearson a bit more recovery time. The Gazette's Brent Briggeman caught up with Pearson at a recent practice:
Q: How does the knee feel now?
A: It feels pretty normal going straight ahead. I can feel it a little bit going side to side, so I'm listening to the trainers and they are restraining me from cutting.
Q: What is that like to earn the starting quarterback role, only to see an injury take away your season so quickly?
A: I knew that I was going to be the guy going into the fall, so it was heartbreaking to go down in the second quarter of the first game. But at the same time it's given me an opportunity, now. I mean, I thought I was motivated last year - this year is completely different.
Q: When the injury occurred, there was immediately talk of trying to get an extra semester for you. Did you ever hear anything about that, and is it something you would have wanted?
A: I'm not exactly sure how the whole fifth semester process works. I'd like one, obviously, I'd love to have another year to play, but some things aren't in my control. If I just have this year I've got make the best of this year.
Q: You came to Air Force expecting to play receiver. Was there ever any discussion after the injury of moving you to a spot other than quarterback?
A: As long as I can find a place to play, it doesn't matter to me. But it's awesome that they're still giving me a chance to go out there and get reps at quarterback.
Q: Did the fact that the team struggled like it did, going 2-10, make it even harder to watch the season from the sidelines?
A: You wish you could go out there and make a difference. But whether we're winning or losing, I want to be out there competing with my teammates.
Q: I didn't see you at practices after the injury, where were you spending your time and were you still able to attend position meetings?
A: I was rehabbing all day, lifting all day, just rehabbing as much as possible. I stayed on top of the new things we were doing, so I could still help out the other quarterbacks if they needed it. But I was pretty much just focused on getting better.
Q: For football players, the season obviously provides some time restraints that make the academic side of things even more difficult. Was any of that eased for you because of the injury?
A: I wish I could say I focused on academics more, but I was so focused on getting my rehab in that I might have been down here at football more than if I was playing.
Q: Was this your first major injury?
A: Yes. I had never had anything - shoulder, anything. This was my first.
Q: Was it the kind of injury where you instantly understood what had happened?
A: I felt a pop when it happened. He hit me pretty hard in the thigh, so I thought I just had a dead leg. When they carried me off the field I was like, 'I'm fine, I just have a dead leg.' When the trainer did a little test it slid a lot.
Q: What was the most physically painful part of the injury?
A: By far it was the day after surgery, when the anesthetics wore off. That was by far the worst.
Q: Who did you lean on for help after going through this?
A: (Center) Mike Husar (who has a history of injuries) has helped me a lot, going through this whole thing. My parents have helped me a lot. I've gotten nothing but support through this whole thing and I'm still getting support.
Q: When will you be cleared to fully return?
A: They'll cut me loose in a few months. Right now they're just erring on the side of caution with what I can do here in the spring. I'm about 4? months out from surgery and they say it's about six months.
Q: Just six months for an ACL, that seems quick.
A: With my injury, because it was just the ACL, I was lucky.
Q: You said your motivation is at an entirely different level, is there anything else that has changed for you or might alter the way you play?
A: Every rep I'm having out here is one more than I got during the season, so I'm loving being out here and just being with my teammates. I thought I played and worked as hard as I could last year, but I think this year is going to be even harder. My mindset is completely different.