Justin Gilbert‘s accessory at postgame interviews is a couple ice packs draped on his knee, a reminder of past injuries and a good indication of how much maintenance is needed to keep the fifth-year senior plugging away at right tackle.
He’s the only Maryland offensive lineman to start every game this season, and his 10 consecutive starts in the second longest on the offense behind wideout Kevin Dorsey. He needs only one class this semester to graduate, and there’s little doubt where his extra time is spent.
“I make up for my no class [days] with treatment,” Gilbert said.
It’s worth it to Gilbert, who missed nine games in 2010 and eight more in 2011 because back-to-back ACL tears. At this stage, he’s interested in anything that can get him to complete a full year as a starter at right tackle.
Even if it means taking a break.
Over the last couple weeks, Gilbert has given way about once a quarter to Nick Klemm. It’s meant fewer snaps, though it has also kept Gilbert fresh later in games.
“They’ve had me on 2-and-1,” Gilbert said. “The knees have been bothering me a little bit. It kind of helps me getting that one series off to kind of get my knees back and get back out there. I still got 60, 70 plays in the game. I’m still out there a whole bunch.”
Understand, Gilbert is not the sort to quietly stand on the sideline. The knee injuries during his career with the Terrapins have only amplified the desire to make the most of his final season.
But he’s also a realist and understands an extra 15 snaps a week in the middle of October is worth trading in order to play a full season.
“In practice, I split reps a little bit and I hate that,” Gilbert said. “I hate having to do it, but I’ve talked to the coaches and I’ve talked to Dr. [Craig] Bennett and it’s something I’ve got to do if I want to keep playing. We’re doing some things and I’m working a lot more in rehab trying to get to where I can start getting back out there every play. As long as I get out there and play, I’m happy.”
—- Patrick Stevens