Collinsworth has been through the wringer at Notre Dame

Austin-Collinsworth-1

What does it mean to be “injury-prone” as a football player? I’ve always found it unfair that somebody can play this game for 20 years without a major incident, make it all the way to the game’s highest level, and then if they suffer two significant injuries in maybe a three-year span they’re slapped with the “injury-prone” tag. All the workouts, practices and games of stretching, pulling and pounding the human body in order to rise to big-time college football or the NFL, and with two freak accidents you’re now considered a risky asset to have on a team.

Austin Collinsworth would definitely be labeled injury-prone by most people’s standards. The senior safety at Notre Dame — the son of former NFL Pro Bowl receiver Cris Collinsworth — missed the 2012 season with a shoulder injury, he played most of 2013 with a back injury, and he’s missed games in 2014 with an MCL sprain and a torn labrum in the same shoulder that had caused him problems before.

But he endured those obstacles to see the highlight of his Irish career so far when he returned a fumble for a touchdown last week against Northwestern, and this week he’s scheduled to start against Louisville, his final home game for Notre Dame. From the Chicago Tribune:

That force of will to play through pain has meant a lot of nervous Saturdays for Cris, who said Austin tried to play through a broken thumb he suffered during a game in high school.

“I’m not saying this because it’s my kid, but I don’t know anybody like him,” Cris said. “He’s the toughest son of a gun I know and he always has been. … When I was a kid they used to have those little blow-up things and they’d keep bobbing back up no matter what, and that’s kind of what he is.

“He has given every ounce of his soul, of his body, of his being to Notre Dame.”

After Austin’s latest shoulder injury, Cris didn’t think there would be any more left to give. After hearing Austin’s shoulder had come out of its socket, Cris called the doctor who had performed surgery on Austin in 2012 to get the operating table ready again and assumed Austin’s season was over.

But after learning he wouldn’t need surgery, Austin decided against sitting out the rest of the season and applying for a sixth year on a medical redshirt. He wanted to get back on the field this season.

Because the injuries have kept him from being able to really showcase his skills in college — and of course also due to that injury-prone tag — it’s unlikely Austin Collinsworth will play in the NFL like his father. But he’s been on the field and had big moments playing for one of the most visible college programs in the country, and he’s getting a master’s degree in business. No one can say Collinsworth hasn’t come out of this sport with a lot to be proud of, despite the pain.

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