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Dick Harmon: BYU football: Faith, hard work boost quarterback Taysom Hill's recovery from injury

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21 2012 10:00 a.m. MST

PROVO — Call this the Thanksgiving recovery story of Taysom Hill.

If a guy could be grateful and somehow find blessings after getting unnecessarily seriously hurt, this BYU freshman quarterback is your man.

In the closing seconds of BYU's 6-3 win over Utah State in LaVell Edwards Stadium the night of Oct. 5, Hill inexplicably ran a needless play in carrying the ball through the line of scrimmage. In a collision with an Aggie defender, Hill hyper-extended his left knee, ending his season.

In the hours following the game, after a manual examination by doctors, the diagnosis was grim. The next day, an MRI confirmed that early diagnosis, that he had serious lateral knee damage. Specifically, the MRI report said he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament, had torn a lateral and a collateral ligament right off the bone and had torn one of the hamstring tendons off its seating on the leg bone with a deep ligament complex also detaching off bone.

"It looked like it had come off the bone in a sleeve altogether, and we had a couple of orthopedic surgeons look at the MRI and they all concurred, diagnosing the exact same thing," according to BYU football head trainer Jeff Hurst.

Doctors then told Hill the news that he'd have surgery; they explained the recovery time would be 6-to-8 months and this serious injury would take "an extensive recovery," and long rehab.

Hurst describes Hill as devastated at the news. His dreams and hard work vaporized with a few words and seconds in a game. It was Hurst's job to keep him positive and engaged.

With most knee injuries, when there is swelling and fluid involved, nobody can be exact in a diagnosis until the joint is actually opened up and inspected with human eyes. MRI revelations have been known to be inconclusive evidence of actual damage inside a body.

Needless to say, Hill, a faithful, God-fearing athlete, who'd just spent two years serving a mission to Sydney, filled his prayers with hope. Those around him did likewise, rallying to his side with love, support, and unfettered faith.

As Idaho's 5A Player of the Year out of Pocatello, and one of the top 30 quarterbacks in the country out of high school, Hill committed to Jim Harbaugh at Stanford but decided to enroll at BYU after his return from mission service last January. Hill had worked hard all winter, spring and summer to find a role on BYU's team.

His efforts brought him to the point that he got his chance this fall. Hill almost led BYU to a comeback win at Boise State. He then directed the Cougars to wins over WAC champion and now ranked Utah State and Hawaii. He was 2-0 as a starter, relieving senior Riley Nelson, who hurt his back.

Things looked bright for Hill that night against the Aggies. He'd completed 24 of 36 passes for 235 yards and the game's only touchdown. He carried the ball 19 times for 80 yards with a long run of 17 yards. He'd averaged 4.2 yards per carry. It was his 19th ill-fated run that everyone in the program wanted back.

When doctors opened up Hill's knee days after his injury, they were pleased to find many aspects of the manual examination and MRI wrong.

Hill's lateral collateral ligament and ACL were intact and were not torn away from the bone, said Hurst.

"So that did not need to be repaired and reattached. They also found the deep ligament complex was still attached but was inflamed and sore. As they got in there and inspected all the structural ligaments in the knee, they found his ACL and PCL were both intact and there was no internal de-arrangement of those major ligaments of the knee, which was really good news."

What doctors did find, which was his major issue, was a detachment of the hamstring muscle head from the fibular bone.

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