University of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t even in the game in the fourth quarter of a 72-0 win over Florida International on Saturday.
But that didn’t stop Bridgewater from sprinting down the field, celebrating with friend and teammate Michaelee Harris, who had just scored his first touchdown since the 2011 season.
”He’s been through a lot,” Bridgewater said. “And to see him come back and to see him score again, that was pretty cool.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Harris, who had multiple surgeries (likely six in all) on both knees since he arrived at U of L in 2010, stopped for a second when he caught the TD pass from Will Gardner – and then he celebrated.
”I paused for a minute because I had to embrace it,” Harris said. “Wow. And then I saw Teddy coming, that’s when I knew I was back.
”It’s been a long road and a tough road, but I’m back.”
Harris, who was released for full contact at the start of fall camp, has played in three of the first four games and has two catches for 12 yards.
But he said finding it back into the end zone signaled that he’s, “ready to go,” for the rest of the season. Harris doesn’t wear braces on either knee and said he’s felt “just fine” throughout fall camp and the first month of the season.
”We know he still has the potential,” U of L coach Charlie Strong said. “That was big for him to catch a touchdown. All of the players tend to gravitate to him because of the type of person he is. For him to come back, we’re excited for him.”
Harris just adds another weapon to the offensive attack for the No. 7 ranked Cardinals (4-0), who are coming off a Sugar Bowl win last season and considered one of the elite teams in the country.
A big-play wide receiver when he’s been healthy, Harris said he also expects to be part of the offense and help his team.
”Everybody says I look the same,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”
It’s been a long road for Harris.
A product of Miami Northwestern High School, Harris was ranked as a top-20 wide receiver out of high school. He was likely going to be a starter during the 2010 season but tore the PCL in his left knee in fall camp.
”At that point, I wanted to give up,” he said. “I wanted to go home but my momma wouldn’t let me. She told me to stick it out.”
Harris made it back but tore the PCL in his right knee during spring practice and missed the next six months, getting back for fall camp. He played in 12 games, catching 37 passes for 455 yards and two TDs, in 2011.
But during practice leading up to the Belk Bowl, Harris tore the ACL in his right knee and also tore meniscus in both knees. He rehabbed after that surgery, making it back for fall camp prior to last season.
”I did everything I could,” Harris said. “And then I tore my left ACL.”
Harris missed all of last season and prior to coming back this time had lesions removed from both knees. But he stayed on track to get back.
“Hard work might be an understatement,” Harris said with a smile. “There were times when I was finally able to run routes and then I had another surgery, finally able to lift weights and then another surgery.
”It was a long, long process. But everyone supported me and was behind me. A lot of people knew how hard I was working and wanted me to get back.”
Harris has finally made it and the touchdown stamped his comeback efforts. He celebrated on the field, did some more on the sidelines and spent the rest of the game smiling and hugging teammates.
”The guys all wanted me to get in,” Harris said. “They knew how hard I had worked and wanted me to get in. It’s a blessing and it feels great.
”I had a mentality that no matter how many times I got hurt or even if I couldn’t run or walk any more, I was going to keep pushing. I kept the hunger until the end and it finally paid off.”