QB Legaux returns from gruesome knee injury

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2013, file photo, Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux throws a pass in an NCAA college football game in Cincinnati. Legaux received another year of eligibility when he suffered a knee injury in the fall of 2013 and was able to br
Al Behrman, File

CINCINNATI (AP) Munchie Legaux's grandmother and aunt decided to fly in for Cincinnati's home opener. Even if the fifth-year senior quarterback got on the field for only one play, they weren't about it miss it.

Not with all that he's been through: The doctors saying that his career was finished, the knee acting up even as he beat the odds and made nearly a full comeback in less than a year.

There were some emotional times at Paul Brown Stadium after the Bearcats beat Toledo 58-34 on Friday night in their season opener, with Legaux getting on the field for a half-dozen plays.

''There were tears,'' Legaux said on Tuesday. ''You could see this big nervousness on their faces. They can relax now that I'm finally back.''

Not all the way back, but close.

Legaux was the Bearcats' starter last season, but didn't make it through the second game. He was hit on his left leg while passing during a 45-17 loss at Illinois. The leg twisted, everything tore. He severely damaged two ligaments and cartilage.

When he got to the hospital, the doctors didn't hide their concern. Such a devastating injury could mean it was time to get on with his life away from football.

''Right after the injury, just lying in the hospital, hearing the doctors talk - they were saying it's over for me,'' Legaux said. ''I was like, `Wow, is it really over for me?'

''Honestly for a quick second, I thought yes, maybe it's over. I had that moment, had that thought in my head for a slight second. After that, I stayed positive.''

He decided to try anyway. The NCAA granted him a redshirt season. He couldn't do much more than throw a football during spring camp. By the time fall camp came around, he was ready to play.

Notre Dame transfer Gunner Kiel won the starting job. Legaux and junior college transfer Jarred Evans became the backups. Coach Tommy Tuberville decided to use all of them in games, keeping them ready in case of injury.

In the week leading up to the opener, Legaux went on social media and shared a photo of the moment before he got hit during the game at Illinois.

''I kind of posted it to get over my fear of playing again - just go out there and step into throws,'' Legaux said.

On Friday night, Tuberville decided to send in Legaux for the final series of the first half with Cincinnati ahead 41-14. Before he headed onto the field, Legaux took a moment to reflect.

''When he told me I was going to finish the first half, I thought about everything for a second, all the hard work I put in to overcome that injury,'' Legaux said. ''I kind of took it in, took a deep breath and went out and played football.''

He completed 4 of his 5 passes for 18 yards and scrambled once for five yards, heading out of bounds.

Tuberville figured that was enough for his first time back. He plans to get Legaux into the game again on Saturday night when the Bearcats host Miami of Ohio (0-3).

''I'd like to have him play a little more,'' Tuberville said. ''At least we got him into the game. Now he understands that, hey, this thing is going to work. I think we're going to be able to use him.''

Tuberville got emotional watching Legaux go onto the field.

''People don't really understand what they go through,'' Tuberville said. ''I remember last year we were over there (at the hospital) and the doctor kind of told me, he said, `Coach, he's done.'''

When Legaux's series was done, he came to the sideline and got hugs. He's received an avalanche calls, texts and congratulations on social media in the last few days.

''It's just tremendous,'' he said. ''I'm just taking it all in. And smiling, of course.''

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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