- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

To hear Matt Crawford tell it, the Maryland Terrapins were working on a new play in practice on Nov. 8, 2000, three days before the biggest game of the season. Crawford, an offensive lineman, turned to make a block and got caught between two players. Somebody fell on him, and … it went.
"It" was Crawford's left knee, which had the anterior cruciate, medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments torn. His knee had been destroyed, but Crawford was so focused on preparing for North Carolina a victory would have qualified 5-4 Maryland for a bowl game that he didn't think he was seriously hurt.
"At first, I didn't want to believe it really happened," Crawford said. "I was thinking maybe I just tweaked my knee a little bit and I would be able to get back. I wasn't really thinking about tearing my knee up."
It was torn up. Crawford's season was over, and he had surgery in December.
After months of rehabilitation, Crawford returned to practice this summer. But he didn't stop there; he worked his way back to start at right tackle every game this season, becoming a vital part of a unit that produced the highest-scoring team in program history and earning second-team All-ACC honors.
All of the above seemed improbable a year ago, when Crawford's knee was so damaged that he essentially had to learn to walk again.
"He didn't understand," said Maryland trainer Sandy Worth, who worked extensively with Crawford on his rehab. "You can say, 'You're limping, Matt,' until you're blue in the face. But the thing is you have to re-educate all the systems, including the central nervous system. … He thought he was fine. He didn't quite understand what he was doing."
Worth said in her 28 years at Maryland only one other joint injury defensive back Lewis Sanders' dislocated shoulder four years ago rivaled Crawford's in severity.
When Crawford returned from his home in Moravia, N.Y., from the holidays, he attended rehab sessions each weekday. When school started in February, he went six days a week. When spring practice started, seven days. After he got the walking thing down, he progressed: he bent the knee 45 degrees, then gradually up to 90. He did exercises in the water, he rode a stationary bike. He made strides, but sometimes they were followed by regressions, a natural but discouraging part of the rehab process. While he worked on his knee, Crawford also had to make sure he increased the strength in the rest of his body.
And, Worth said, Crawford never missed a rehab session. Not one.
"I've never experienced [an injury] like that," said fellow lineman Todd Wike, a good friend of Crawford's, "but I can imagine that you'd probably have to almost start over with techniques. And conditioning, it would probably take a long time for that to come back."
Needless to say, with Ralph Friedgen and a new coaching staff coming in, Crawford wasn't making a smashing first impression.
"You put in a brand-new offense, drills are a little bit different, it's hard" to adjust, offensive line coach Tom Brattan said. "He played in a good bit of pain. It was pretty painful I'm sure there is stuff you can do, but … he bit the bullet, so to speak."
About halfway through the summer, Crawford was almost at full strength but still continued to receive treatment ice, heat, stimulation and ultrasound. Every weekday, he attended sessions at 7 a.m. On Sundays, he went at 11 a.m. and Saturdays depended on game time.
"People said it was going to be hard: 'You're going to have a long road, there's going to be ups and downs and you just have to deal with it,'" Crawford said. "The best way you can deal with it is to work hard."
Crawford's efforts earned him the Piccolo Award, given each year to the most courageous football player in the ACC. Worth didn't hesitate to nominate him for the award, though Crawford has gotten some ribbing from his teammates, who kiddingly call him "Piccolo." But there's a hint of respect there, too.
"I really didn't think he'd be back for the beginning of the season, but he surprised a lot of people when he was able to do that," Wike said. "We're real proud of him. I'm real proud of him."

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