It took months for Bryant Koback to watch the game tape of the injury that cost him his senior season.
Kentucky’s new freshman running back was able to replay the collision plenty of times over and over again in in his head.
The senior at Springfield High School in Ohio and a top 50 running back commit by every major recruiting service was sprinting down the sideline being trailed by his defender.
The guy grabbed Koback from behind and pulled the 6-foot, 200-pound running back down. The defender landed on Koback’s leg as they crashed to the ground together.
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“There was nowhere for my leg to go, so it just buckled,” Koback explained of the impact that snapped two bones in his leg on Sept. 23.
The pain was unbearable at first. Then he went into shock.
When Koback returned home a couple of days later and tried to stand up the pain “was extraordinary,” he told reporters on Friday morning while going through a round of interviews with UK’s six other mid-year enrollees.
“It was the worst feeling ever, knowing my season ended and I couldn’t finish out my season,” he said. “It was definitely a humbling experience. … It tests you mentally, makes you mentally stronger because when you come back, you know you can overcome things you thought you wouldn’t be able to overcome.”
Koback knows it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to practice with his new Cats teammates in the spring — although he already is ahead of schedule on his rehab timeline — but he came to campus early hoping to get a jump on school and the playbook, and receive specialized rehabilitation.
But first, Koback had to see the game tape of the leg that he was unable to put weight on for weeks.
While it was a cringe-inducing video that he’s watched many times with many people now, the thing that stuck with Koback most was just how close he was to the goal line at the time.
“I was mad because I didn’t score,” said the running back, who already had rushed for 1,096 yards and 21 touchdowns (19 rushing and two receiving) in the four games before the injury.
“I was so close to the goal line and I didn’t score. When he tackled me, I didn’t go down, I was still up. I went to reach for the goal line and stuff, then I saw my leg and just went down because I knew I couldn’t run and it was broke. I felt the pop and everything.”
It’s the kind of determination to fall forward and break through tackles at all costs that has some analysts comparing Koback to a name familiar to UK fans: Benny Snell.
“I really like Bryant,” said Scout.com analyst Bill Greene, an Ohio recruiting expert. “I’m anxious to see, when he goes through that college weight program and adds a little bulk up top, he’s got a chance to be a Benny Snell type. He might be very similar to Benny.
“And I know Kentucky fans would love to have another one of those.”
For now, though, Koback is putting that same effort into rehabbing his leg that once contributed to blazing speed and eye-popping high school numbers.
In his shortened high school career, the player from Holland, Ohio, had more than 4,400 all-purpose yards and 57 touchdowns.
Koback managed 100 or more yards in every game he played in and more than 400 all-purpose yards a game.
Like the other freshmen that just arrived on campus, Koback wakes up around 4 a.m. to go through strength and conditioning.
Then the only true running back in UK’s 2017 class spends the next hour or two in the rehab room trying to get his leg back.
Getting to Kentucky early has been helpful for Koback as he tries to bounce back from the broken bones.
“They work with you to make sure you do everything correct on every little movement, just to make sure you get all your range of motion and all your strength back in your leg and get back as soon as possible,” he said of the medical staff.
Koback’s leg is “a lot better,” he said. And he believes he’ll be competing for carries with UK’s other running backs like Snell, Sihiem King and A.J. Rose come fall camp.
The true freshman’s position coach believes that, too.
One thing that impressed Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran about his newest running back was his desire to compete.
Gran watched Koback’s junior year film from camp and liked what he saw. But he was more impressed that the player came back to camp at Kentucky a year later.
“A kid that’s starting to get really highly recruited and he came to camp again,” Gran told the Herald-Leader on Friday. “That tells me something about him: He’s not afraid of competition. He came out and it was a no-brainer for me to see him in person.
“Athletically, he can run, catch, soft hands. He’s just everything you want in a running back.”
Staff writer Ben Roberts contributed to this report.
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