(Rick Hickman/American Press)
Last Modified: Sunday, August 10, 2014 1:43 PM
On his only college play to date, Will Briscoe took a knee.
That came at the end of a McNeese State victory last September over Arkansas Pine-Bluff.
It was a completely ironic moment.
Four knee injuries have limited Briscoe’s playing time as a Cowboy to just that one snap, when bent to one of those banged-up limbs.
It was also ironic because the play itself was one of surrender after a long, tough battle. That went against everything Briscoe has done in his time at McNeese.
There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of quit in his often battered body.
“It’s just not in my nature,” Briscoe said, a fifth-year senior who could request a medical hardship sixth season from the NCAA next fall. “It’s that never-quit mentality I have — never give up.”
That is what has kept the quarterback from Baton Rouge coming back after a career filled with pain and disappointment that hasn’t just been limited to the field. He lost his father during his time at McNeese, adding to his heartbreak.
This is not how it was supposed to go. When he first signed with McNeese, Briscoe had the same dreams as every other player.
Briscoe imagined himself running onto the field in front of a screaming, packed house, stepping into the huddle and leading the Cowboys down the field in the final seconds for a winning touchdown.
He never counted on his first opportunity coming when the game had been decided and most of the fans had left for home.
“It hasn’t been what I had counted on,” Briscoe said.
Still, that one shot at entering the huddle and taking a snap has whet his appetite.
“It was a great feeling, but you want more,” he said. “You expected more when you started. I hope that is not the only time I get a chance to play.”
Injuries have been the story of his career, but it is one he is desperate to rewrite. With two years of eligibility left, he believes he can change his ending.
“I would not have worked this hard if I didn’t think I could play again and help the team,” Briscoe said. “You have to believe that in order to keep going.”
Briscoe is quick to say he believes he can win the starting job as early as this season. If that happens, he will be back for another try next fall for sure.
“My goals have never changed,” he said. “I want to be the starting quarterback, to be a leader on this team.
“I have thought about it several times, but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I don’t want to jinx it.”
For now he is healthy as McNeese begins camp.
“I feel great,” he said. “I have been healthy for a long time now and feel like I’m ready to contribute.”
But just when he was ready to play, his twin brother Wes, a senior receiver last year with McNeese, suffered his own season-ending knee injury. Wes was granted a medical redshirt and will play this year.
That meant Will was no longer going through rehab alone.
“Having somebody going through it with me was nice, but you don’t want to wish an injury on anybody, especially your brother,” Briscoe said. “It was funny, though. He was always complaining and I told him I didn’t want to hear about it.”
Briscoe said with each injury, the hard part was always the rehab.
“The surgeries and the pain don’t bother me,” he said. “It is getting back in there and getting ready again, getting up in the morning. I hurt all the time. I can feel it during the cold weather. I never believed that when people said it before, but I do now.”
There were times over the years, on those mornings alone, that Briscoe admitted he was close to quitting.
“It has crossed my mind lots of times,” he said. “There are days when you just don’t want to get out of bed and do the workout. You have to work through those days.”
Now he hopes that he can finally live out those dreams he had when he first came to campus.
“I was expecting to come in, play right away and be a leader in this program,” Briscoe said. It has not worked out like I planned. I think I can get back to that. I want to play.”
He admits that is has been the hard part, not playing.
Briscoe has watched as his brother and friends lived out their dreams.
It hurt when they won because he wanted to be a part of it, and it hurt more when they lost because he wanted to help.
“Watching gets old,” Briscoe said. “Stuff happens on the field and you are frustrated. You know what you could do and want to help and can’t.”
But after staying healthy last year and all through spring and summer workouts, there is hope that maybe better times lie ahead for him.
“You have to keep working and try to make the best of what comes,” Briscoe said. “I hope the injuries are all behind me and that I can be a part of this team and help it win.
“That’s all that counts.”
Briscoe is showing us that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org