Former All-ACC cornerback Mark Gilbert has missed most of the last two seasons with a hip injury that required multiple surgical procedures.
He made his return to full participation on the field during Duke’s abbreviated spring practice, which was limited to three days, due to the shutdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was definitely life changing,” Gilbert said of the injury on a recent appearance on Duke Football’s All 22 podcast. “It caused me to just put everything in perspective, not to take anything for granted. You realize you may take some things for granted until you go thru something traumatic like that. I definitely have a lot more appreciation for little stuff like practice, like school. I really learned to not take anything for granted, as I’d seen it could all be taken away in one play, a play that was a non-contact injury.”
As short as it was, Duke’s spring practice gave Gilbert the chance to feel like his old self again.
“It was exciting, man,” he said. “It was almost like therapeutic to a point, just being back out there with the guys, working, running around and stuff. It was good.”
Gilbert had plenty of moments over the last two years where he wasn’t sure that moment would come.
“I did (think that) a lot,” he said. “That was one of the mental aspects I had to get over. That’s why those three days of spring ball were very therapeutic for me. I was making plays. I was able to see I can be the player I was before and even better.”
It took a period of adjustment when Gilbert first began playing.
“It was nothing different,” he said, “but you do forget how fast you play, how fast guys are moving out there, how well-conditioned you were before the injury. Nothing new, just stuff you had adapted to. Not playing two years, you kind of forget these receivers come off the line pretty fast. They cut pretty fast. Doing reps, you get back to it.”
When practice was cut short by the pandemic, it was frustrating, but, compared to what Gilbert has been through, it was manageable.
“I look at it as a situation—it is what it is,” he said. “It’s something Coach (David Cutcliffe) always talks about—control what you can control. The only thing I can control right now is staying ready, staying in shape. Stay prepared. It was unfortunate everything got cancelled due to this, but you can’t control this.”