Fullback Eric Stevens forced a smile and a “thank you” when somebody helped him open the door of the locker room Thursday. His right knee heavily wrapped and on crutches, Stevens was less than 24 hours removed from the news that he would miss the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Later, Stevens graciously agreed to be interviewed as teammates walked by giving him words of encouragement.
“It was one of those freak accidents,” said Stevens, who suffered the injury Wednesday during a team drill on a play in which he never made contact with another player. “I just planted a little funny. I was a little off balance and couldn’t catch myself. My foot took a couple steps back on the turf and my knee didn’t go with it.”
After starting five games last year, Stevens was projected to be the starter again this year. Will Kapp will now take over his role.
Stevens has one year of eligibility remaining. He’s already used his redshirt year but coach Jeff Tedford said they would explore the possibility of getting him a sixth year.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Stevens said. “You wonder just how it happens like that. If it’s a hit or something, it’s understandable.”
Stevens said he didn’t think the injury was that bad initially. He went for an MRI on Wednesday night, where he received the bad news.
“Right when it happened, I was a little surprised,” he said. “It felt weird. I never really hurt my knee or had any issues with my knee. The pain wasn’t that bad. I didnt’ think it was something serious.”
Immediately after Stevens suffered the injury, he was treated by Cal’s training staff on the sidelines. He said at that point he didn’t feel much pain in his knee at all.
“It felt fine,” Stevens said. “I got up and felt like I could walk. I tried stepping on it a little bit but it was a little unstable.”
Stevens will have surgery once the swelling in his knee subsides.
Tedford obviously felt bad for his junior, who came to Cal as a walk-on but eventually earned a scholarship.
“The guy has put so much heart into this,” Tedford said. “He’s done a great job getting in shape. He’s such a great kid and so committed to this program. It’s really unfortunate.”