Injured UK running back Clemons ready to run again



By Nick Gray | @KYKernelGray

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Five hundred and sixty days, or 80 weeks, have passed since sophomore running back Josh Clemons last stepped onto the field at Commonwealth Stadium suited with cleats, shoulder pads and a helmet, ready to play football.

On Saturday morning, Clemons finally returned.

Saturday’s scrimmage was Clemons’ first live football action inside Commonwealth since Sept. 24, 2011, against Florida.

Clemons has not formally suited up in blue and white since Oct. 8, 2011, at South Carolina, where he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee.

The sophomore from Athens, Ga., attempted to work through the lingering effects of the knee injury early last season but swelling in his knee forced Clemons to redshirt and miss the entire season.

Clemons said his right knee, which has not swelled throughout spring practice, is “the best” it has felt since his injury, a sure relief after a year-and-a-half journey of repairing and rehabilitating a lingering injury.

No matter what Clemons does throughout the rest of his career at UK, he will always have a special memory inside Commonwealth Stadium.

In his first ever home game vs. Central Michigan two seasons ago, Clemons rushed 14 times for 126 yards, including a Commonwealth Stadium-record 87-yard touchdown run that gave the Cats the lead in the fourth quarter.

The touchdown is his only score in three games at home.

On Saturday, Clemons reportedly found the end zone in the intra-squad scrimmage more than once as part of what was termed by offensive coordinator Neal Brown as the first day “we looked like an SEC offense.”

When asked how many touchdowns he had in Saturday’s scrimmage, Clemons grinned and said “a couple.” Brown said Clemons “hit a big run up the sidelines” and had a couple of good runs.

Clemons was noticeably, and understandably, upbeat Saturday morning.

“I’m just trying to get better,” Clemons said. “I’m happy to be back out here on the field. It’s been a long time since I’ve been hit so I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Brown said after the scrimmage he was encouraged by Clemons’ progress.

“I think it’s a step that he thinks he is, because that’s the hardest thing with knees is mentally (getting over the injury),” Brown said.

“I think his knee is stable. If he mentally is there, that’s a huge breaking point. I think there’s probably some things he can get better at. But I was big-time encouraged by him today.”

“I feel like I am (100 percent),” Clemons said Saturday, referring to the health of his right knee.

Clemons grinned again, and continued to smile until he walked off the Commonwealth Stadium turf, shoulder pads and helmet in hand, with no limp in his step.