Mark Dantonio said last week that MSU CB Vayante Copeland was back, “Full go,” and that he, “Looked good.” Those words carry a lot of weight especially for anyone that saw him after his brutal neck injury last year.
Copeland was ruled out for the remainder of the 2015 season with a fractured vertebra suffered in a 31-28 win over Oregon. At the time Dantonio called it a, “Very unfortunate injury,” and it was not like many injuries, it compelled any reasonable person to be concerned about the young man future, and I don’t mean football. It was a truly scary scene.
That is why Dantonio was all smiles this week talking about his CB star. “He looked very good in shorts, and then you put the pads on. He is very confident, he has great ball skills and he can move and he is a great tackler.”
With any major injury such as what Copeland suffered, it can bring as much mental damage as physical. Has Dantonio noticed any mental trepidation from Copeland?
“The way he has played I think he is past that. He hasn’t played football in nine months’ time. It’s really about being rusty a little bit and getting your feet up underneath you. Again, learning to play with your pads on. It is one thing to play in shorts and it’s another when you put your pads back on, when things are going a little more active for him.”
Vayante said this week about the mental angle that, “I am a little bit over it because I am cleared now. It hurt (mentally) but at the same time it helped me.”
Vayante said after a full pad and full go practice this week that, “I didn’t come down and kill no one today, but I came down and leg swept R.J. Shelton. It felt kind of good getting back out there because I hadn’t tackled in a while. Just getting out there felt pretty good. I had the same injury in high school and when I came back I wasn’t shy.”
I asked Copeland who has playing like an NFL first rounder prior to the injury. Is he was able to appreciate how well he was playing in using that as a guide for his return. “When I look at film, I don’t look at myself. I look at it as a whole unit. If I am doing good we all do.”
So when the injury first happened was Copeland’s mindset about rehab or did he worry his career was over? “I didn’t think it was a career ending injury. I just took it slow. Ready to go now just chasing a Big Ten championship and chasing greatness.”
So when the Spartans humble CB star takes the field at the spring game the crowd will rise and cheer for their battler. The biggest accomplishment isn’t that he is playing football. It is much simpler than that. Copeland is a great young man, and the fact that he can walk and return to a normal routine for a young man is the real blessing.
Getting him back is just an added bonus for the Spartans defense.