It’s not difficult to identify some of the biggest dates in Jeff Deliz’s life in the last year.
Suffered a Lisfranc separation against Rutgers, Sept. 7. Underwent surgery, Sept. 14. Had a second surgery, Jan. 17.
“I know all these days,” the Navy safety said.
Oh, and here’s another one: Aug. 30, the day he plans to play in a game again.
Deliz is something of a rarity at Navy: A fifth-year player. His injury was so severe he was forced to withdraw for the final two months of the fall semester last year, but he’s back for a final chance to play with the Midshipmen this year.
If it seems like it would take an extreme injury to force someone to go home for a couple months, that’s because a Lisfranc separation isn’t an everyday ailment. It’s the dislocation of joints in the middle of the foot – pretty much a scrum of tiny bones connecting the ankle and toes.
So he left for Michigan, determined to work his way back to the starting spot he’d finally earned heading into last fall.
He tried to find out as much as he could, but it wasn’t easy. An old friend, former Detroit Lions wideout Tommie Boyd, tried without success to get him in touch with former Lions tailback Kevin Jones, who also suffered the injury.
“I had to read about it,” Deliz said. “It’s so rare. I know Dwight Freeney just did it last year, too. I just got a lot of inside information. Being home and being at U of [Michigan] and doing rehab there helped, too. They had seen it a lot. I had to play it by ear.”
It meant spending months in a boot. It meant re-enrolling in January and sitting out spring ball.
And it meant coming back in a role different than the one he left last season.
“Here is a former captain who comes back to a team and is no longer captain,” first-year coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “There’s no animosity, no resentment. He went to our new captain and tried to see what he could do to help him and what he could do to make him better. It shows you what kind of kid he is.”
Of course, reality tends to be the best arbiter of any comeback case. For Deliz, he entered Navy’s camp (which began Friday) as a co-starter at Rover with sophomore Emmett Merchant. And there is that matter of playing against Towson when the Mids begin their 12-game schedule later this month.
“It’s kind of like a proving-you-wrong kind of thing,” Deliz said. “A lot of people told me the odds of coming back were under 50 percent with this injury. It only just fueled me to go. With all the treatments and all the workouts I’ve done, it’s going to feel good stepping on the field Aug. 30.”
Oh, and there’s one more spot on the calendar he has circled.
“Dec. 19, I graduate,” Deliz said. “I’m out of here.”
Until then, he’ll be trying to make up for a lot of lost days.