Tyrone Prothro suffered a compound fracture of his leg in Alabama's 31-3 win over Florida last October 1. He had surgery, contracted an infection, then had more surgery. He has been on crutches and in rehabilitation for months.
Prothro, a 5-8, 175-pound three-letter winner, has never been redshirted. If the Heflin native is not able to play this season, he would have a year of eligibility remaining for 2007.
"Pro would love to be out there, but he knows it's not his time yet," said Alabama halfback Kenneth Darby.
"I think he's got it on his schedule to come back next year," Darby said.
The Tide halfback added, "I feel for our opponents when he does get back. He'll be driven. He's a hard worker. He's back walking now. He's progressing much faster. I know he'll be back, but I think he'll sit this one (the 2006 season) out."
Darby, who was rehabilitating from sports hernia surgery at this time last summer, said he has shared with Prothro his experience of having to wait to be able to get back on the field. "It's tough rehabbing," he said. "You're sitting around while others are working. You can't work."
Offensive tackle Kyle Tatum said Prothro has worked hard. "He doesn't miss a day in the training room," Tatum said. "He's giving it all he's got. I think he'll play football again. It's day-to-day. He has been walking without his crutches some, which is big. But he also continues to use them some."
Quarterback John Parker Wilson said, "He's doing a lot better. He's been coming out to our pass skel work (backs and receivers working against defensive backs and linebackers in summer workouts) and he's trying to coach up those guys (wide receivers). He travels down the field with us. I'm encouraged. I see a lot of improvement in him.
"If he could play this year, that would be wonderful. If he can't, then we have to roll without him. The thing about football is when someone's missing, someone else has to step up and fill that role."
Prothro and cornerback Ramzee Robinson have been best friends and toughest practice competitors against one another. "We talk all the time," Robinson said. "We have a computer class together this summer. And he's been coming out to pass skel work. His spirits are still high. Not too many athletes who have a passion for the game like he does could keep their spirits up."
Robinson said, "He's being smart about it. When he does come back, he's going to be 100 per cent. He knows it's a slow process and he's willing to do what it takes. He's taking it day-by-day. Only time will tell. The Lord works in mysterious ways. Maybe he'll wake up one day next week and be ble to go.
"He made a little joke the other day, telling me to redshirt this year so we could go out together."
Robinson added that Prothro has plenty of support from his teammates. "Everyone is trying to be his best friend because he's going to be going to the ESPYs soon."
Prothro's amazing catch behind the back of a Southern Miss defender last year has been nominated as one of the best sports plays of the year by ESPN. Fans are voting in various sports categories on the internet.
"I vote for him all the time and tell all my friends to vote for him," Robinson said.