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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 18 2013

NDSU senior a medical oddity playing through ACL injury

Fargo - It was another routine-looking drill in football practice when Jeremy Gordon heard the pop in his knee. There are normally two words associated with that sound: Season. Ending.

But not for the North Dakota State senior defensive end. The pain, he said, lasted for about 15 seconds. He got up and tried to go about his business.

“I was in denial,” Gordon said. “I’m going to keep going. I kept telling the team and my coaches that I’m not going to stop. This is not my time.”

As it turns out in a medical oddity, it wasn’t his time to stop. Gordon is one of those rare cases where he’s been able to continue to play mainly because his hamstrings are strong enough to compensate for the knee ligament.

When the tear happened, he did not see the usual shot of swelling that a lot of ACL injuries have. He missed only one game – Oct. 12 against Missouri State – and was back at practice the following week.

“He’s a fortunate individual,” said NDSU director of sports medicine Scott Woken. “You don’t see it very often. He can do it and not everybody can.”

In another oddity, since the injury, Gordon’s production has gotten better. The junior college transfer from the North Dakota State College of Science has been more productive in the playoffs than his two regular seasons in a Bison uniform.

He was in on a quarterback sack and a tackle for lost yardage in the quarterfinal win over Coastal Carolina last week. He had four tackles and a quarterback sack in the second-round win over Furman.

About 35 percent of season statistical production has come in the FCS playoffs.

“That’s how it goes with the coaches here,” Gordon said. “When they start trusting you and you start doing your job and understanding the plays and feeling comfortable out there, then the number of reps go up. And you also start making plays, which I’m doing.”

Gordon is not the only Bison player trying to return from an ACL tear. Linebacker Grant Olson has been working out in hopes of keeping his career going.

Gordon said they’re affectionately known as “The Knee Brothers.” He said Olson has been quizzing him on his brace and if it slows his quickness.

Woken said the one difference is Olson had more swelling with his injury. He has yet to be cleared to play. In the case of both, they can’t do any further damage to the ACL, Woken said.

“Recovering the range of motion and strength is the biggest thing,” he said.

It appears Olson will need a Bison victory over New Hampshire in Friday night’s FCS semifinals for his career to have one more shot. The national title game is not until Jan. 4.

Gordon, meanwhile, is making the most of his good fortune.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia