TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A little more than two weeks ago, Jacques Patrick went into surgery thinking his season was over.
He woke up thinking he might play in Florida State’s next game.
While that goal proved a little ambitious, Patrick has nevertheless defied his initial prognosis and plans to practice this week and maybe even play when the Seminoles visit No. 4 Clemson on Saturday.
The junior running back first learned of the injury following Florida State’s game against Louisville on Oct. 21. Doctors initially thought that he had torn the cartilage in the knee, but, upon surgery, realized the injury wasn’t as bad as initially feared.
“It’s just a major blessing,” Patrick said. “It was really devastating for me, at that time. To have the game taken away, I was never really put in that position (before).”
Patrick’s return would be a welcome sight for the Seminoles as they angle to upset the Tigers.
As good as freshman Cam Akers has been – he ran for 199 yards against Syracuse last week – the Seminoles’ offense has perhaps been at its best when Akers and Patrick are sharing the load in the backfield.
The Seminoles had increased their team rushing total in each of the four games leading up to Patrick’s injury, and Patrick totaled 105 yards (70 rushing, 35 receiving) in FSU’s loss to Louisville.
It was then that Patrick realized something might be wrong.
“I didn’t even know I was hurt (at first),” he said. “That was the crazy thing. I felt like something happened, but I was still running, still doing fine.”
Patrick hoped for something mild like a sprain, but an MRI revealed otherwise.
“They said it was over,” Patrick said. “I was told I was going to be out four to six months.”
The days between the diagnosis and the surgery were difficult.
A former five-star prospect, Patrick patiently waited for his turn while Dalvin Cook rewrote the Florida State record books in 2015 and 2016. And the Orlando native had made the most of his increased responsibilities, not only by averaging 5.7 yards per carry, but also by giving the Seminoles a reliable runner for short-yardage situations.
See his second effort on an early third-and-1 at Duke – a play which kept alive a touchdown drive – as an example.
“Jacques, he was a great leader for us,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Then, for a few days at least, his season was over.
Things were at their worst the following Friday, when Patrick watched from Tallahassee as the Seminoles suffered a 35-3 defeat at Boston College.
“That was tough for me in my recovery,” Patrick said. “Them going up to Boston College and me not being able to do anything about it.”
But, in the meantime, Patrick noticed something unexpected in the wake of his operation:
He felt fine.
No pain, no discomfort.
Nothing that would so much as keep him from standing up and walking out of the hospital.
“I don’t know, man,” Patrick said with a smile. “It was a weird thing for me. I woke up, I felt normal. …
“That’s a great doctor.”
Maybe a lucky football player, too.
Given a new lease on the season, Patrick returned to FSU’s football facilities determined to make the most of it.
He spent last week rehabbing his injury and regaining his strength, and planned to rejoin the Seminoles in practice on Monday.
And when No. 9 walked into the Seminoles’ locker room, his teammates took notice.
“It just speaks loud,” defensive end Brian Burns said. “He’s just a great leader. He’s coming back to help the team in any way he can, and I really appreciate it.”
Added safety Derwin James: “You can tell he wants to be out there. When he got hurt, you could see the frustration on his face. But every day he’s been working hard and he’s ready to go.”