- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MONROEVILLE, PA. (AP) - Dondi Kirby tore an ACL during a 7-on-7 tournament at the University of Michigan in June _ yet he isn’t ready to say his senior season at Gateway High ended before it began.

“He was in my office, walking around, telling me, ‘Coach, I will be ready; I will be ready for the playoffs,’” Gateway coach Terry Smith said, then chuckled.

Kirby, on The Associated Press East Region 25 list of top recruits, says his optimistic outlook comes from being told by his doctor that his recovery is ahead of schedule.

Still, with the typical ACL recovery time at least six months after surgery and the Pennsylvania high school regular season ending in late October, even Kirby will concede when pressed that his target of returning in time for the playoffs is probably unrealistic.

“But I’m definitely going to be there like I’m still playing,” Kirby said. “I’m going to go to every practice and do everything I can to still be a part of this team. Which I am.”

Smith said the team will miss a lot from him and his work ethic.

“Besides his play, he was the guy everyone looked to. We’re going to need to replace a big part of our identity,” Smith said.

“Big” being the operative word for a cornerback who stands 6-3, 200.

“I like to think of myself as a linebacker at the secondary position,” Kirby said.

A linebacker with enough, talent, speed, explosiveness and ball skills to cover the fastest wideouts in college football, judging by the who’s who of schools recruiting him. Kirby has drawn interest from colleges in every BCS conference.

“He’s a big-time player,” Smith said. “Since I’ve been here, (current St. Louis Rams cornerback) Justin King and (Ohio State linebacker) Dorian Bell have probably been our two best players. I would say Dondi is probably right there behind those guys.”


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