Retired high school football coach Larry Frost was enjoying time with his two grandchildren Saturday in suburban St. Louis when the phone rang, interrupting his afternoon.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
The best player he ever coached, former Mizzou and current Philadelphia Eagles star receiver Jeremy Maclin, had suffered a severe knee injury during a routine drill at training camp.
Frost would later learn the official diagnosis, a torn right ACL. It was the same injury Maclin suffered before his freshman season at Missouri in 2006. (In an eerie coincidence, the 6-foot, 200-pound speedster got hurt each time during a 7-on-7 drill in which receivers and defensive backs compete without linemen on the field.)
For Frost, who coached Maclin at Kirkwood High School from 2003-05, the previous injury provides proof that his star pupil will be back better than ever.
Maclin is “a strong, determined young man. He had that injury at Mizzou, and he came out of that stronger and running faster than he was before. Just knowing that, I think he’ll do a great job of getting himself back to playing.”
Maclin apparently stayed on the ground for several minutes after suffering the injury, which came in 7-on-7 drills. After being examined by the team’s medical staff, he was carted off the field.
Maclin, 25, has dealt with a multitude of injuries since joining the Eagles as a first-round pick in 2009. He’s only played a full season once in his first four seasons, and his best statistical year came in 2010, when he hauled in 70 passes for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010. Last season, he had 69 receptions for 857 yards and seven touchdowns.
It appears Maclin was considerably optimistic about his potential output this season. Not only is it a contract year – his original five-year rookie deal expires after the season – but new Eagles coach Chip Kelly is regarded as an offensive guru who is known for his fast-paced, high-scoring offenses at Oregon.
Unfortunately for Maclin, he won't get an opportunity to see what he can do this season.
"Appreciate all the love and support twitter fam....sad day but I have setbacks my entire life. Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback! #birdgang," Maclin wrote from his Twitter account, jmac_18.
Still, Frost - who retired as Kirkwood’s coach in 2009 - can only imagine the disappointment his star pupil – who became a four-star prospect by accumulating 132 catches, 2,875 combined rushing and receiving yards and 42 touchdowns during his high school school career – feels at this point.
But Frost, who said he has kept in contact with Maclin throughout the years, suspects Maclin’s disappointment may mirror the way he felt the first time he got hurt nearly seven years ago.
“He was upset, originally,” Frost said. “But that switched to determination and getting back at it pretty quickly. He wasn’t going to let that undermine his goals. I’m sure the coaching staff at Mizzou had a lot to do with getting him back at it, too.”
Anyone reading this blog knows what happened the first time Maclin got hurt. He busted his tail to get back in shape and went on to become one of the most dynamic football players in Missouri history.
After missing the entire 2006 season, Maclin burst onto the scene in 2007, when he scored 16 total touchdowns, tallied 2,776 all-purpose yards – an NCAA Division-1 record for a freshman –and became the first MU freshman to win consensus first-team All-American honors.
Frost knew Maclin was poised for a big 2007 when he heard that Maclin’s 40-times had actually improved during the year he was recovering from the injury.
“I knew his 40-time when he signed and I knew what it was after he had surgery and rehabbed,” Frost said. “The time was somewhat faster than it was before. He was already in the 4.4s and I’m sure he got it down a little faster than that.”
Although Maclin had considerable talent, Frost said his attitude and ability to focus on the task at hand also helped him mount his first comeback.
“He was more looking at what was going on in the immediate future,” Frost said. “He does a good job of keeping things in perspective.”
If Maclin’s injury is indeed as serious as feared, he’ll need to do it again. Frost doesn’t have Twitter and isn’t much of a fan of social media, but he’ll be like the rest of Missouri’s fans, checking in to see how Maclin’s latest situation unfolds, with the memory of how good he was as a high school player – and how much better he got in college despite the same injury – fresh in his mind.
“As a high school coach of many years, you see a real good player maybe once or twice a year make an exceptional play or move,” Frost said. “Well, he would do those types of moves or plays at least once or twice a game and you’d look at the other coach and say ‘Did you see that? How did he do that?
“You could just tell he was a step above everybody else at that level. And then he did the same things at Missouri and then some. The NFL, that’s another level. Everybody’s faster, and though he doesn’t stand out as much, he’s still an outstanding player.
“I have hope he’ll come back through all that. I’ll be keeping up to see what happens.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.