You’ve heard of Cabin Fever?
Duke tight end Braxton Deaver half-jokes that he’s been suffering from Training Room Fever.
In December 2011, Deaver tore his ACL. He went through the rehab, missed all of last spring, came back strong, and then broke his thumb in June and was out for five weeks. As soon as he came back, he fractured his patella, essentially ripping his kneecap in half.
“At one point,” he said, “I was just angry.”
It’s been a long road to recovery, but Deaver has finally rejoined his teammates this spring with the hopes of being a major contributor this fall. He’s still not 100 percent healthy, but Deaver is participating in spring drills and expects to play again for the first time since 2011. When he’s at his best, those within the program say Deaver can be a complete tight end for the Blue Devils -- a strength the team was lacking last year. Deaver, though, is versatile enough to help the running backs get to the perimeter, help the tackles with the linebackers, and be a threat as a pass catcher.
He just hasn’t been in a starting role yet.
“I love his mentality,” said offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. “He’s a guy that just loves football, lives and breathes it. It’s who he is. It’s kind of his identity, if that makes sense. He’s really talented. I’ve been around some guys who have gone on to play in the NFL at the tight end position, and Braxton is like that. When he’s healthy, I don’t think the size, speed, strength, football IQ combination could get better.”
Deaver is eager to prove it.
Roper said Deaver was about 205 pounds coming out of high school, and some recruiters doubted if he would be big enough to be a tight end and fast enough to be a wideout. He was recruited by Wake Forest, where his father, Jay, lettered four seasons as an offensive guard (1985-88). Duke, though, showed more interest, and Deaver gravitated toward the offense and the coaching staff.
Now, at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Deaver is more than capable of both blocking and catching. He also has added motivation from the injuries he suffered.
“I wanted to come back and really show everyone exactly what I can do,” he said. “Everyone says he’s got the potential, but you know what? I’m done with that. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.”
Deaver said he puts the team goals first, but that he wants to catch over 50 balls, be a first-team all-ACC selection, and be “the absolute best” he can be. He’s finally healthy enough to try and do that.
“I’ve never felt better in my sport-playing career,” he said. “We have an unbelievable staff here as far as the training room and everything else. I’ve been really diligent. I knew it was going to be hard, but I really put my nose to the grindstone and now I feel great.”