Ravell Call, Deseret News
PROVO — Last week, BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall said it was a "long shot" that injured quarterback Riley Nelson would be able to make the trip to Hawaii for the regular-season finale against the Warriors on Dec. 3.
But after a visit to the pulmonary specialist on Tuesday, Nelson, who suffered lung and rib injuries against Idaho on Nov. 12, was cleared to get on the flight.
Nelson has not yet been cleared to play against Hawaii, however.
"Miracles happen," Nelson said after Tuesday's practice, speaking publicly for the first time since he was injured. "I'm a lot further ahead at this point, as far as being cleared for travel, than I thought I would be. I'm not quite cleared yet to play. I'm allowed to do certain drills in practice. But hopefully that trend continues and I'll be cleared to play a lot sooner than I thought as well."
The decision on whether or not Nelson will play probably won't be made until game day, according to Mendenhall. The Cougars have a bye this week.
"We'll take every bit of time we can. He was practicing today. He was throwing it, running around a little bit," Mendenhall said. "Does that mean he would take another hit and could he sustain it? I don't have that information yet. He'll go (to Hawaii), we'll prepare him like he'll play and we'll make a decision at the very end."
While Nelson practiced Tuesday, Jake Heaps, who started in last Saturday's 42-7 win over New Mexico State, did not. He and some other Cougars, including left tackle Matt Reynolds, were sidelined with a stomach virus.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman was happy to see Nelson throwing passes again.
"To find out this early that he's going to be able to get on the plane, 10 days after the injury, that's some fast healing. To me, it's pretty miraculous," Doman said. "He's a unique kid. A special guy. I'm excited that he's healthy and able to get on that plane. He hasn't been cleared to play yet, but he's cleared to get on the plane.
"Jake wasn't able to go (Tuesday) so we could see Riley practice and see how he looks. I'm blown away by it. I've been injured before and I've had a broken rib before. I know how much it hurts. It hurts bad. To be able to come out and do what he did today is pretty darn impressive."
How did Nelson look in practice?
"I didn't know he was hurt. That's the honest truth," Doman said. "That's a tribute to him."
Nelson said he's doing well. "There's still some soreness, but once I get out and run around, and get loosened up, it feels pretty good," he said. "I'll keep following up with the pulmonologist and the doctors ... I still have probably another week, at least one more doctor's visit before we get on the plane and go."
QUEZADA RETURNS HOME: Sophomore running back Josh Quezada was not at practice Tuesday, having returned home over the weekend to be with his family. His older brother, Joseph, was killed in an automobile accident in California last Saturday.
"It's heartbreaking," Mendenhall said.
INJURY UPDATE: Tight end Austin Holt underwent season-ending surgery Tuesday after suffering a torn ACL and MCL in his knee during last Saturday's game.
Holt will miss spring drills but should be back in time for fall camp next August, said head trainer Kevin Morris.
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