One day after an MRI officially confirmed a clean ACL tear in the left knee of senior tight end Kory Sperry, the dynamic offensive threat announced that he will be exercising his right to a medical redshirt from the NCAA and retuning to the Rams for a fifth year.
“I will be redshirting and returning to the Rams to play next year,” Sperry said after practice Tuesday. “I get a whole year of rehab and I get to come back next season and prove that I will be healthy and bigger and stronger next year.”
Sperry saw playing time as a true freshman and has not yet used his redshirt year, making him eligible for a fifth year with the team.
The injury occurred in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Cal, which CSU lost, 34-28. While making a catch on a short pass, Sperry was hit below the waist. The awkward contact folded his knee under his body, ending what was billed as a promising senior season.
Sperry, considered to be one of the top professional prospects in the Mountain West this year, said the possibility of playing in the NFL is not on his radar right now.
“All my goals are just set back a year,” Sperry said. “Even to scouts, my blocking was questionable. This just gives me a whole year to get my legs stronger.”
Last year the Rams lost their star running back, Kyle Bell, to the exact same knee injury. Bell said that even though it is early, he has been able to help Sperry through the shock of losing his season to injury.
“That’s probably the hardest part of the whole deal, just kind of coming to grips with it and getting your mind set on what you need to do next,” Bell said. “I’ve already talked to him a couple times. I told him that anything he needs, if it’s to talk or he has questions, I will always be there.”
Sperry said that he has already been able to start some of his rehab to take the initial swelling out of his knee. Once the swelling goes down, he will be able to undergo surgery to repair the ligament and then start his official rehab. The process could take as many as 10 months for him to regain full strength.
“You really have to stick with it,” Bell said. “It takes a mentally strong person to really attack it, and Kory is the type of person who can do that.”
In the meantime for the Rams, the tight end position will be wide open. Redshirt freshman Mark Starr, junior Chris Kawulok and true freshman Eric Peitz are all currently in the running for the spot.
According to offensive coordinator Dan Hammerschmidt, Starr represents the best blocker, Peitz the best receiver, and Kawulok provides a bit of both.
“Hopefully we can throw the ball to all three of them,” Hammerschmidt said. “It’ll be a battle; we don’t know who is going to be the starter but somewhere between those guys.”
For Peitz, the opportunity to step in for a leader like Kory Sperry will be a difficult but exciting challenge.
“Kory is going to be missed,” Peitz said. “The rest of us really need to step up to fill his shoes.”