Connecticut's coaches have scrapped plans to make linebacker Greg Lloyd Jr. take this season off, using a redshirt year to recover from the serious knee injury he went down with in November.
Lloyd, the son of the former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on Nov. 28 against Syracuse. Doctors told him that with intensive rehabilitation work and good healing, if all went well, he might be ready for football activities sometime this fall.
The coaches were going to ease him back, and perhaps convert him to a defensive end.
But Lloyd had other plans.
He worked out three times a day to make his knee stronger, and said he considers himself a fast healer.
After being cleared to practice at the start of training camp, he sneaked into drills he wasn't supposed to be doing, and took repetitions he wasn't supposed to be taking.
"I just threw myself in there to see how the knee would hold up," he said. "When I saw I could handle like, basic linebacker drills, I was like, 'Well, we can handle that, so hitting people shouldn't be that bad."
Soon he was playing in scrimmages and it became clear to coach Randy Edsall that Lloyd was going to play.
"He did all the things that as a coach that you want to see, and there were no ill effects from any of the practicing or scrimmaging that he did. So, you go with your best, and he's one of the best that we have."
Lloyd had 91 tackles last season, and the image of him flying through the air and knocking the helmet off Notre Dame running back Armando Allen Jr. on the goal line has come to symbolize the most notable win in the history of UConn football.
His teammates say Lloyd's return has given them an emotional lift heading into Saturday's season opener with Michigan.
It also reunites perhaps the best linebacker trio in the Big East. Lloyd and outside linebackers Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson are all seniors, and last year combined for 300 tackles.
"It's great to have our big run stopper in the middle back," Lutrus said. "I don't know what it is, it must be in his blood with his father or whatever, but he's just got that instinct to get in there, and hit big guys."
Lloyd wears the same 95 as his dad, but doesn't talk about their relationship. They have been estranged since Lloyd was 12 and he father was accused of putting a gun in the boy's mouth because he received some bad grades. Two assault trials ended in mistrials.
Lloyd's injury is also now part of his past, and he said he's just looking forward to again to playing in a game.
"It's been on my mind since missing the bowl game. I honestly can't wait," he said. "I'm just happy to be back in the mix of things and getting ready to hit everybody."