Exactly a month ago, Pete DeSouza sat in a Washington hospital less than a day removed from surgery to repair two broken legs suffered in a motor scooter accident on Maryland’s campus.
The redshirt freshman tackle was fortunate the damage --- catastrophic as it was --- wasn’t worse. His season ended, but not his career. Not if he has his way.
DeSouza met with reporters Tuesday for the first time since his accident. He’s lost weight --- down from 310 pounds to 288 pounds --- and is getting around on crutches. He’s completing two classes in the coming weeks, and is already plotting his comeback to be part of the Terrapins’ resurgence in the future.
“I expect myself to be back for spring ball --- maybe not fully practicing, but taking part in the drills,” DeSouza said.
Such a prospect was unlikely on Oct. 21, when DeSouza was riding his scooter on Campus Drive in the center of campus. A driver made a left from Union Drive --- the road that goes in front of Cole Field House --- toward the Stamp Student Union and collided with DeSouza.
The upper body damage was minimal; DeSouza had only a scratch above his eye. But both of his tibias and fibulas were broken.
“I did look at my feet one time when I sat back down and I kind of knew I was done for the season,” said DeSouza, who is still wearing walking boots on both feet.
It was even more jarring for teammates who quickly arrived . Quarterback Danny O’Brien, who considers DeSouza one of his closest friends, learned of the accident while spending extra time after practice in the Gossett team house.
O’Brien and offensive lineman Pete White rushed to the accident scene about two blocks away and were stunned at what they saw.
“It was like a slinky,” O’Brien said. “It was one of those things that didn’t feel real."
DeSouza underwent nearly 12 hours of surgery the next day. Coach Ralph Friedgen presented him with the game ball from Maryland’s emotional 24-21 defeat of Boston College three days after DeSouza’s accident.
The rehabilitation process soon began, and DeSouza set about his recovery with the support of friends and teammates.
“Early on, I had a couple nightmares,” DeSouza said. “At times, it gets emotional, but I have guys who are around me and people around me who are good people who I can talk to."
It’s also soothing to know his career isn’t in jeopardy. DeSouza might not be ready for contact in the spring, but he said doctors told him he should play football again. Already, there are signs of bone growth around the rods surgeons inserted into both legs.
“There should be no limitation,” DeSouza said. “They said my legs should be stronger than before. From a lot of people I’ve talked to that have titanium rods, they say they’re a lot quicker."
DeSouza returned to the team house just before Maryland boarded its buses for a trip to Virginia on Nov. 12. Emotional teammates were ecstatic to see him just three weeks after his accident.
Since then, he’s become a regular in Gossett again, so much so that it’s assumed he’ll be around at team functions.
“Coach Friedgen yelled at him for being late,” linebacker Alex Wujciak said. “He’s trying to crouch down in the team house ‘Pete are you late?’ He’s been around, he’s been going to treatment and going to all the meetings. It’s awesome to have him back."
DeSouza was on the sideline before Saturday’s loss to Florida State, and watched the 30-16 setback from the team house terrace. But as significant a step as that is for him, it’s particularly important for teammates to have the chance to catch up after last month’s jarring events.
Those moments don’t necessarily occur during practice or in football-related activities.
“So meaningful,” O’Brien said. “That’s one of my best friends on and off the field. To be able to go back to his dorm and just hang out with him, watch TV and joke around with him like old times is good. I’m just thankful he’s here."
DeSouza plans to be for a while, too. He has three years of eligibility remaining, and his already quick recovery means he might be a factor for playing time sooner than initially expected.
“I think he’s ahead of being on track,” Friedgen said. “Pete think he’s going to be ready for spring practice. I don’t see how that’s possible, but they told me he wouldn’t be able to put weight on that left leg for three months, but he’s already putting weight on that leg. A lot of our prayers have been answered. If his spirit has anything to do with his recovery, I think he’ll be ready as fast as humanly possible."
As for DeSouza, whose backpack helped cushion the blow to his head during the accident, he knows how valuable his second chance at football --- and life --- really is.
"A lot of people think I could have passed away,” DeSouza said. “Obviously, it’s great that I can play football again because not a lot of people would have that opportunity. I have to take advantage of that.”