Quinten Pounds never worried he wouldn’t be the same player when he returned to the field for Washington.
Pounds’ season ended before the Huskies’ ninth game in 2017 when he tore the ACL in his left knee. The injury meant months of rehab, but Pounds knew once he returned he would perform as well if not better than before.
He knew because he’d already been through it.
Pounds has twice suffered season-ending injuries during his college career. He tore the ACL in his right knee after playing in three games as a true freshmen then suffered the same injury to his other knee last November.
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Now Pounds is healthy and ready to make an impact in his junior season. If there was any doubt about his potential, it was erased with a diving, one-handed touchdown catch in the season opener against Auburn. He then had three receptions for 98 yards in the victory over North Dakota.
“Being able to be out there with my teammates and playing the game I love is just something I’ve been waiting to do for a long time,” Pounds said. “All offseason, I’ve just being working hard for that. Now, that the opportunity is here, I’m just appreciating every moment.”
For Pounds, rehab was easier the second time around because he wasn’t going through it alone. Fellow wide receiver Chico McClatcher suffered a series of injuries in 2017 and his season ended when he suffered a broken ankle against Colorado.
“We were both pushing each other, competing with each other and coming back stronger with each other,” Pounds said. “That was just a really good experience.”
Before his injury in 2017, Pounds caught 10 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown. In 2016, he played in 14 games, recording six receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.
This season, he’s part of a receiving corps looking to establish itself as a reliable weapon for UW’s offense. So far, the Huskies rank No. 12 in the country in passing offense, averaging 366.5 yards per game heading into Saturday’s Pac-12 opener at Utah.
“Just having people know that we can make plays,” Pounds said of what he wants for the receivers. “Not only make plays, but go in there and do the dirty work and get some blocks in for the running backs and spring some big plays also like that.”
Wide receivers coach Matt Lubick said Pounds might be an even better player than he was before the injury, simply because he’s more appreciative. Players can often take football for granted, but being forced off the field has a way of shifting their mindset.
“Just his attitude toward embracing everyday, embracing the meetings, having a chance to be back with his teammates,” Lubick said. “I think he really appreciates it.”
It’s testament to Pounds’ character and mental toughness, Lubick said, that he was able to work his way back from two separate injuries. It wasn’t easy for him to watch his teammates play while he worked through the painful rehab process.
But Pounds never complained.
“He took it one day at a time,” Lubick said. “Other people saw how he worked. He really motivated myself and the other players because you see the type of work he did to get back on the field.”
Pounds admitted he got frustrated sometimes, especially after the second ACL tear. But he just kept believing that there was a plan, that everything was going to work out. He did what he could to remain positive, which mostly meant focusing on the ultimate goal: Playing with his teammates again.
“I just knew what was going to come and what was going to happen,” he said. “I knew I had to keep my head down and work hard and know that other people out there have it worse than I had it at that moment.”
Despite his history, Pounds doesn’t dwell on the possibility of dealing with another injury. When the games starts, it’s the furthest thing from his mind.
“I just go out there and play fast and don’t really think about anything,” he said. “Just go out there and have fun and play football.”