GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida freshman cornerback C.J. McWilliams needed some words of encouragement after tearing his ACL last Friday.
His high school at Miami Southwest, Tim Neal, knew just the person to lift his spirits. Neal reached out to one of his former players — Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore.
The NFL veteran called McWilliams on Thursday and talked to him about having to recover from two knee surgeries.
“That’s what C.J. needed to hear,” Neal said. “He’s feeling much better now.”
Neal coached Gore for two years at Coral Gables High School before he starred at Miami from 2001-2004. Gore won a national championship with the Hurricanes as a freshman, but tore both his left and right ACL in college.
“Seeing how Frank went through everything, it’s unbelievable,” Neal said. “He bounced back every time. He felt the same way when he first injured his knee. You know, ‘Why me?’ Well, you can’t look at it like that. You just work for improvement.”
Gore is now entering the 12th year of his NFL career and has made five Pro Bowls. Having heard Gore’s story, Neal said McWilliams is ready to attack rehab.
“He understands the process,” Neal said. “It’s unfortunate, but it happened early on in his college career to where he can pick up from this. He’s one of those kids that rises above whatever is in front of him.”
Neal said McWilliams will have surgery on his knee next week. He had a chance to play as a freshman and was performing well in fall camp.
“He was so excited for the season,” Neal said. “Those guys get after each other and he loved it, just the competitiveness of the receivers and the trash talk.
“When you get your feet wet like that, you get an idea of where you stand. He’ll come back stronger and faster than he was, just like Frank.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.