GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Adam Lane knew he was in trouble when he heard the snap.
The Winter Haven (Fla.) rising junior running back had just completed a spin move when he was hit in the hip by a tackler. Somehow, Lane's foot got trapped underneath the defender when they landed.
He knew his 2011 season was over even before it began -- the injury occurred on the Friday before the season opener -- when the doctors told him he had fractured his lower fibula. But what about the future? Was his status as one of the state’s top running backs in 2013 in jeopardy? Would schools still want a back with a metal plate and six small screws in his leg?
All it took was one phone call to Florida running backs coach Brian White to allay those fears.
“They had heartache for me because they know I wanted to play,” the 5-foot-7, 218-pound Lane said. “At the same time [White said], ‘We’re not going to back off of you. We’re going to stay with you. Keep your head up. We still want you.’ ”
That phone call is one of the main reasons Lane eventually decided he wanted to play football at Florida. The fact that the Gators are desperately in need of backs for the 2013 season and early playing time is virtually guaranteed also contributed, but Lane’s relationship with White and the Gators’ willingness to stick with him despite not knowing how he would recover from the injury were huge factors.
Lane said he didn’t really believe any of the schools recruiting him would back off much after the injury, but he wanted to hear someone tell him that for his own peace of mind. The first call he made, roughly an hour after he left the hospital after his surgery, was to White.
“I really wasn’t too worried, but it was in the back of my head,” he said. “I had to call them and assure myself they were still there.”
Other schools assured him that he was still wanted, but not the way White and Florida did, Lane said. White kept in regular contact on Facebook and the two spoke weekly.
“I like the way they handled the situation much better,” said Lane, who rushed for 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore and 305 yards and five touchdowns in Winter Haven’s spring game.
UF certainly made Lane feel wanted, and the Gators weren’t exaggerating. As of today, the Gators would have just three scholarship running backs in 2013: Senior Trey Burton, junior Mack Brown and sophomore Matt Jones -- provided he honors his commitment, signs in February and plays this fall. Hunter Joyer would be a junior fullback.
Brown has been a disappointment, Burton is more of an H-back than true running back, and Jones is as yet an unknown commodity on the collegiate level, so it’s imperative the Gators add at least two running backs in 2013. Lane is the first, both as a running back and as UF’s first commitment for the class of 2013.
Lane appears to have recovered fully from his injury. At the Under Armour Combine last month, Lane said he ran a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. That was the first time he had run it since his injury and it’s not far off the fastest he said he’s been timed (4.37).
“I was impressed with it,” he said. “I exceeded my expectations.”
But he wasn’t surprised. He is sure he’ll bounce back from his injury with a stellar senior season, thanks to the encouragement he’s gotten from his older brother, D.C. Jefferson, who is a tight end at Rutgers.
“He told me players get hurt every day,” Lane said. “What makes them great is when they come back and put it in the back of their head and play like they’ve never been hurt before.”
Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.