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Snap. Crackle. Pop.
These noises might be good to hear if one is eating Rice Krispies. They are not such good sounds when one is playing football.
Unfortunately for Buffs senior wide receiver Blake Mackey, he was not eating breakfast when he heard his knee make that clamor. He was being tackled in a 2005 spring camp practice, one that was supposed to be non-contact. Mackey’s ACL was completely torn, and his season was lost.
“I feel like an opportunity was taken away from me last year,” Mackey said. “I’m ready to get back on the field and prove that I can still do the things I did before the injury.”
Running 4.38-second 40-yard dashes and regularly getting behind defenders on his way to a 26-catch and team-leading 426-yard season in 2004, a break-out year for Mackey, were some of those things. Mackey is currently listed with the second team on the depth chart, yet he seemed very confident in his ability to run with that same speed.
“My speed is pretty much back,” Mackey said. “I have been blessed to be able to run fast. Hopefully, I’ll get some opportunities to get down the field and make some plays.”
Mackey said the biggest issue for him coming back from such a devastating injury was redeveloping the confidence he had in himself prior to the injury.
“It really was all about my confidence,” Mackey said. “I had to get used to having contact again. The more I’m out there on the practice field, the less I think about it, so hopefully I’ll be able to cut it loose come game time.”
Football coach Dan Hawkins said he is hoping that Mackey can return to being the deep threat he was before the injury.
“You have to come out and show yourself every single day,” Hawkins said. “You are always in the hunt for people who are making plays, and we certainly hope Blake is one of those guys.”
Another member of the team who hopes Mackey will be able to “cut it loose” is senior quarterback James Cox. Cox said he has seen good things from his receiving corps in fall camp and he hopes that translates into game action.
“We have a solid group of receivers this year,” Cox said. “I have all the trust in the world in each of them, and Blake is in that group.”
The quarterback situation has been a precarious one thus far for the Buffs, as Cox was named the starter on Aug. 22, a mere 12 days before the Buffs season opener against Montana State on Sept. 2.
When asked if the unsettled quarterback quandary affected his comeback, Mackey said he is simply excited to catch the ball again, no matter who throws it.
“Receivers are out there working hard to catch the ball no matter what,” Mackey said. “We will catch it from whoever the coaches put out there. I’m just excited to get out there and catch the ball again.”
The grind of summer workouts and fall camp can be a grueling one, especially for players like Mackey who are returning from injury and acclimating themselves to football again. Mackey, however, said his conditioning was never an issue.
“It has been a long camp,” Mackey said. “Everyone has been working hard, but the conditioning part never affected me more than the next guy. It’s just exciting to be able to get out and play football again.”