ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan football captain Mike McCray offered some advice to Tarik Black on how to deal with a long-term injury: stay focused.
“Don’t let this deter you,” said McCray, who missed the 2015 season with an injury to his right shoulder. “Trust the process. You’ll eventually be back.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh announced Monday that Black, a freshman wide receiver, is out indefinitely with a foot injury. As Michigan (3-0) prepares to face Purdue (2-1) at 4 p.m. ET Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., it has to reshuffle its wide receivers.
During Harbaugh’s press conference on Monday, in which he spoke in a low tone and answered most questions in only a few words, Harbaugh offered the most revealing news when asked about Black.
“He’s going to be out,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to need surgery. He’s got a crack in his foot. Outside of his foot.”
Black was taken off the field on a cart after Michigan’s 29-13 win Saturday against Air Force.
Harbaugh was unsure of Black’s timetable for recovery. This opens the door for Michigan to exercise its options at wide receiver, but it also caused some players to empathize with their injured teammate.
Sophomore wide receiver Eddie McDoom, who could see more reps with the absence of Black, gave practical advice:
“Just take your time,” McDoom said. “Get through recovery. You’re a great player. Take your time. Make sure you go to every recovery session. Just make sure you’re in the playbook so when you return, nothing’s behind you, that it’s just as new.”
News of Black’s injury also caused teammates to reflect upon what they learned from their own injuries, or from watching how teammates handle injuries.
“This is a physical sport and injuries happen,” senior captain Mason Cole said. “With an injury like that [to Black], you can just learn and have more of a respect for the game. It’s just different. You’re not going out and practicing every day and it’s really got to hit you in the heart and put a new focus on you.”
That’s what happened to McCray, who gained perspective on life without football when he was injured. McCray redshirted his freshman season in 2013, then was on the scout team in 2014. He missed the 2015 season with a shoulder injury. His recovery paid off: McCray was second on the team in tackles (76) last season and led Michigan’s linebackers with 7 pass breakups.
His injury, he said, benefited him long-term.
“I gained a lot of knowledge, and growth overall as a person, sitting back and watching film, just seeing different things on the film and learning from older guys and from other people on the team,” McCray said.
“Outside of football, it kind of makes you think about your future. It’s one thing I thought about.”
McCray said he didn’t know anything about Black’s injury until a reporter told him, and hadn’t spoken with Black since Saturday.
But McCray reiterated the importance of positivity in the recovery process.
“You’ll eventually be back,” McCray said. “You’ll be the same player as before. Or even better.”