There's never a good time for a season-ending injury. But when you're playing at a career-best level and then it all gets taken away, that's about the worst time for one.
Nick Sukay knows this well. The Penn State safety was making all kinds of plays in the first half of 2010 and was tied atop the Big Ten lead in interceptions with three going into the Illinois game. He caused a fumble by delivering a hit on the opening kickoff. But that hit also left him with a torn pectoral muscle. So much for that career year.
Sukay, though, tries to look on the bright side.
"It was real frustrating and it was tough afterward focusing on my rehab and getting better," he said. "But everything happens for a reason, and we got some game experience for others on the team in the secondary. That's going to help us out in the long run, so something good came out of it."
He's able to say that now, but it's not so easy when your chest muscle is torn. Sukay says, yep, that's as painful as it sounds. He actually stayed in that Illinois game through the second quarter, recording three more tackles before finally succumbing to the pain.
Not until almost June did he start to feel right again.
"I'd feel good one day waking up, then one day it wouldn't feel good," he said. "So it was a long process, and I didn't want to push it as far as lifting and things like that."
Sukay said he did other exercises to keep up his strength, and he thinks his summer weight work has gotten his chest muscles back to where they once were. Now he's trying to regain the form he showed during the first half of last season.
"I've done everything in camp -- there's no holding back as far as hitting goes," he said. "I'm trying to get back into that groove and play with that kind of confidence again."
Sukay will have to beat out the emerging Malcolm Willis to get his old starting job back at free safety. But as long as he's healthy, he'll be a valuable part of the defense and special teams for the Nittany Lions.