GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Lee Taylor, Dre Massey’s high school football coach, had settled in front of the television Saturday night with his wife to watch his former star player make his much-anticipated debut with the Florida Gators.
Just like those watching live in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Taylor was wondering why Massey was barely playing in the Gators’ season opener against Massachusetts, only to learn later that the slot receiver had sustained a knee injury on the opening kickoff of the game.
Massey, one of the standouts of Florida’s preseason, gutted his way through the first half, trying to play through the pain, but coach Jim McElwain confirmed Monday he will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season.
Taylor, who coached Massey at Mauldin (S.C.) High School, texted with him on Sunday and said the surgery is to repair his ACL.
“We started watching the game and he returned the kick and they did the little feature on him in their opener when they took the field, and my wife goes, ‘Hold on, Dre is starting and he’s not on the field.’ I said, ‘Oh, they run wide receivers in and out. It’s no big deal,'” Taylor recalled.
As it turns out, it was a very big deal.
The junior college transfer might have been the fastest player on the Florida roster and was projected to be used in a variety of creative ways this fall.
Taylor formed a close bond with Massey during his high school days and considered himself a father figure of sorts to him. He said Massey’s phone was broken Sunday so they could only text back and forth.
But Taylor got the impression Massey was handling the situation as well as he could.
“I texted him Sunday and said ‘Good win.’ He texted me back and said, ‘Yeah, I’m done for the season.’ That’s when I found out,” Taylor said. “We texted back and forth yesterday and he seems to be taking it in stride. He knows he can get a medical redshirt and still have two years (of eligibility). He told me, ‘It’s just something else I have to overcome.’ He’s gone through a lot in his life and came through it and I think he’ll come out of this once again. …
“I guess he’s taking it as good as you can take it. I know he was looking forward to the season. He was excited about the team, excited about the possibilities. He’s a little down about that.”
In his comments Monday, McElwain hadn’t specified the kind of injury Massey sustained and thus did not offer any kind of timeline for recovery after the surgery.
Taylor said Massey told him an MRI had confirmed it was to his ACL and that he was confident he would come back strong as ever from what has become a fairly common injury in the sport.
“I know his personality. He’ll be back, and he will be back stronger than he has been,” Taylor said. “I don’t worry about him.”
Ryan Young is a Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.