Former Boise State defensive tackle Mike Atkinson played football last month for the first time since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2012 loss to San Diego State.
Atkinson, who plays for Hamilton in the Canadian Football League, re-tore the ligament during rehab. He has played the past two games as a backup.
“It feels great,” he said this week. “Still trying to get back to the old roots I was playing at. They’ve been patient with me. Words can’t really explain how I feel about coming back. It’s just a great feeling.”
Atkinson was injured in November 2012. He completed the nine-month rehab process, but at his final checkup doctors noticed that he had torn the ligament again. They estimated that he did it five months into rehab and didn’t know.
The second rehab, they told him, would take a year.
“I really didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to play football anymore. It was super hard on me, just mentally. I decided to stick with the rehab, see how it went, and I started feeling really good early on.”
Hamilton signed the Windsor, Ontario, product before the second injury and stuck with him through the rehab. He’s playing about half the snaps and adjusting to Canadian rules, which include a larger field and a requirement that defenders line up a yard off the line of scrimmage.
“They’re definitely being cautious with me,” Atkinson said.
Through the process, he has leaned on a couple of former Boise State teammates for support. Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford was a high school and college teammate and NFL free agent defensive lineman Chase Baker was a college teammate.
“We talk every day,” Atkinson said. “We all have each other’s backs. We all went through our injuries. That’s a great support team that we’ve got going on.”
Atkinson is one of six former Broncos on CFL rosters. Here’s how they’re doing:
DT Mike Atkinson, Hamilton: One tackle in two games.
DB Brandyn Thompson, Ottawa: Second on the team with two interceptions.
OL Jon Gott, Ottawa: The starting center.
DB Jerrell Gavins, Ottawa: Ranks tied for third on the team with 35 tackles but is currently on the injured list.
RB D.J. Harper, Ottawa: Does not have a carry and is currently on the injured list.
LB Winston Venable, Montreal: He has 27 tackles this season, including 12 on special teams (second on team).
Boise State at Nevada
When: 8:34 p.m. MT Saturday
Where: Mackay Stadium (30,000, FieldTurf), Reno, Nev.
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Adam Archuleta, Cassie Gallo)
Radio: KBOI (670AM), KKGL (96.9 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
Records: Boise State is 3-2 overall, 1-1 Mountain West; Nevada is 3-1, 1-0
Series: Boise State leads 27-13 (Boise State won 34-17 last year in Boise)
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