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Friday, July 24, 2015

Smith

Column: Cummings contributes in spite of injury

Blue Team starting quarterback Michael Cummings his helped off of the field by trainers during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

Blue Team starting quarterback Michael Cummings his helped off of the field by trainers during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

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On the last Saturday of April, a day designed for Kansas University’s football players to reap the rewards of the previous few weeks’ practices, the Jayhawks watched a nightmare play out in front of them at Memorial Stadium.

Quarterback Michael Cummings, entering his senior season with KU, took a helmet to his left knee in the program’s spring game. The injury looked bad that afternoon, and the result proved worse. Cummings had surgery on the knee in June and is likely to miss the entire 2015 season.

A 5-foot-10 senior with 23 career starts, Cummings has been at Kansas since red-shirting in 2011. Defensive end Ben Goodman, also a fifth-year senior, mellows his generally upbeat tone when he thinks about the damage suffered by his good friend and the uncertain future ahead for Cummings.

“It was kind of painful, and it kind of hurt to see that he was the projected starter, I guess, and to see him go down,” Goodman said.

Junior offensive lineman Jordan Shelley-Smith added watching that happen to a senior leader made the setback even harder to stomach. Still, Cummings might be handling his misfortune better than any of his teammates. According to the Jayhawks in attendance at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, the quarterback remains not only upbeat, but also in an influential role.

Said Shelley-Smith: “Mike is the kind of guy that when he says something, everybody’s quiet, and we all listen, because we know he’s been in so many situations, and we just have the utmost respect for him.”

Sophomore tight end Ben Johnson thinks Cummings handled the potentially devastating blow better than anybody else on the team could and revealed when the Jayhawks’ skill players have worked this offseason, the quarterback shows up to yell his support and push them.

“He still brings competition to the table, even being hurt,” Johnson said. “I think that’s special. That really shows that he cares and that he’s passionate about what he’s doing and what he’s got going on for the football program.”

None of these anecdotes surprises first-year KU coach David Beaty.

“He is only a better kid than he is a player,” Beaty said of Cummings, who figures to seek a sixth year of NCAA eligibility. “I don’t know how I can give a kid higher praise than that.”

Now a vocal leader instead of a contributing performer, Cummings has helped out junior Montell Cozart, as well as freshmen Carter Stanley and Ryan Willis this summer.

“I kind of wish there was someone like that when I came in,” Johnson said, “to be that vocal and not be afraid to say something to a younger kid when he’s doing something wrong or if he’s doing something right.”

Knowing Cummings well, Goodman said the injured QB’s insights will help the three players fighting to win what seemed to be his job. From little things like footwork and dealing with a collapsing pocket to larger issues such as playing time or off-the-field troubles, Goodman expects Cummings to help Cozart, Stanley and Willis in every way imaginable — all while he tries to rehab and return to the field.

As much as Goodman respects his friend and is glad Cummings remains involved with the team, he realizes dwelling on what might have been won’t help any of the Jayhawks.

“We’re focusing on the now,” the defensive end said, before divulging Cozart, Stanley and Willis all have shown flashes of turning into Cummings’ replacement.

“They’re out there competing each and every day,” Goodman said, “and all three of them are hungry for the job.”

Comments

Joe Ross 7 years ago

6th Years of Eligibility:

The NCAA uses a rule termed the "Five Year Rule" to govern eligibility of student athletes. This rule states:

"A student-athlete shall complete his or her seasons of participation within five calendar years from the beginning of the semester or quarter in which the student-athlete first registered for a minimum full-time program of studies in a collegiate institution..."

A student athlete can apply for a waiver to the Five Year Rule, which must be approved by a two-thirds majority vote from the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement. The rule states:

"This waiver may be granted, based upon objective evidence, for reasons that are beyond the control of the student-athlete or the institution, which deprive the student-athlete of the opportunity to participate for more than one season in his/her sport within the five-year period."

For reference, things that are defined as "beyond the control of the student-athlete or institution" include medical reasons (for either the student or an immediate family member), natural disasters or extreme financial difficulty. (Non-medical) red shirt years are considered a "circumstance within control."

Benton Smith 7 years ago

Thanks for posting that, Joe.

A sixth season isn't a certainty, for sure. But heard it's an avenue they are pursuing.

Dirk Medema 7 years ago

This is the reason Cox is back this year, Yes?

Bourbon changing divisions made his a non-issue?

Benton Smith 7 years ago

Cox suffered season-ending injuries in both 2013 and 2014 and was granted a 6th year. So his situation is different than Cummings', who red-shirted (non-medical) his freshman year at KU.

Tom Keegan 7 years ago

Actually, Dirk, Bourbon applied for sixth year but was rejected because his red-shirt had nothing to do with injury. He came from small school and needed a red-shirt year to transition to big-time football. Once it was denied, he then made the decision to go to Washburn, which has been a launching pad to the NFL for a couple of players. Cummings had the serious knee injury his senior year in high school and I'm sure Kansas could make a strong case that he had not fully recovered and that was the reason for the redshirt. I could see that one going either way, but Cummings definitely has a better case than Bourbon, probably not as open-and-shut a case as Cox.

Dirk Medema 7 years ago

Unless one of the freshmen pulls a Reesing. It will be real unlikely for it to be anywhere near the same results this time because of the supporting cast, but it's not like Mike was playing at an elite level before he was injured (56%, 9/6 TD/INT).

Like, and cheering for the guy, but still keeping it real.

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

Losing the most important player on the team is painful and as much as I’d like to see him on the field I think he should call it a career. Further injury is not worth the risk. He’s paid his dues to KU football.

John Randall 7 years ago

This isn't a matter of paying dues. This is a young man pursuing his goals.

Michael Lorraine 7 years ago

To play football for one more year on a losing team? His parents and the coaches should be looking out for his future and advising him to call it quits.

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