When I think about some recently graduated Bearcats whose careers were suddenly impeded by injuries I think first and foremost of Mike Mickens. In his final two seasons at Cincinnati the defensive back was the epitome of a “shutdown corner”. He picked up 10 interceptions during that time and was so good that quarterbacks simply stopped throwing to his side of the field. Mickens was a sure-fire NFL Draft pick his senior year but tragedy struck in the middle of the year when he blew our his knee. From that point onward Mickens would never again stepped onto the field in a UC uniform and narrowly missed being undrafted, eventually sliding to the Dallas Cowboys in the 7th round. He had made it on a team but it’s clear the knee injury caused his draft stock to plummet. Mickens bounced around the NFL for a bit before landing on the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League.
He was an outstanding player for Cincinnati who’s football career was forever changed by a tragic injury and is, quite frankly, extremely lucky to even be playing the game. Someone who was in extreme danger of repeating this was defensive end Walter Stewart. After being declared MIA for Cincinnati’s matchup against Toledo, Bearcat fans everywhere questioned what had happened to UC’s best defensive player. It was later revealed that he had a spinal defect that he only recently discovered but was with him his entire life. It was revealed after an injury against the Fordham Rams earlier this year and his football career was proclaimed all but over.
However per a message from his father, it sounds like Walt has been cleared to begin training for the NFL combine in hopes of being drafted in April:
@bearcats_nation Walt Stewart is training for the combine and hopes to get invite. Great news from doctor today!!
— Keith Fields (@fields_keith) December 4, 2012
As I mentioned Walt has always been viewed as Cincinnati’s best player on the defensive side of the ball and was an lock to be drafted by a pro team, likely on the first or second day. This definitely seems like excellent news for the defensive end. He will finally be given the opportunity to continue his career into the NFL, as was originally expected, and right now I couldn’t be more happy that he seems to have avoided the fate that befell Mike Mickens.
However, I’m somewhat skeptical over what the doctor looked at and how he determined Walt could return to the football field. What was thought to end his career wasn’t an injury but a permanent defect in his spine. I’m no surgeon but I don’t know if that is something that can be cured, at least that what we were led to believe when he his condition was announced. My worst fear is that he tweaks that area of his spine in the wrong way that ends his career for good, or worse. For now we can only hope that Walt will remain injury-free as he prepares to take his career to the next level.