Against Southern Illinois early last season, then sophomore Safety Brishen Mathews was going down on punt coverage.
A routine play, right?
"I got blindsided and when I hit my torso was going in opposite directions. The pressure on my Lumbar 5, L5, just threw it out of whack," he explained.
Mathews went through a tough, long rehab but was never able to make it back on the field during the season.
"It was 6 a.m. every morning and it took a long time. Not being able to dress out for games was tough, but there were days early on when it was hard to walk up the stairs to the practice fields," he explained. "I was getting shots in my upper abdomen, basically, in Memphis and that was tough.
"It got bad because I wanted to play so badly, but I finaly realized I had to go through the rehab process and do everything I could to get back on the field. Spring training became my goal."
Now, it's a new day. Brishen has put all of that behind him.
"The back is a non-issue, behind me. I don't even think about it anymore. You really can't. If you start thinking about it, it will hurt your play. I'm fine now and playing like I always have in the past," he noted.
That resolve has catapulted Mathews, in the early stages of spring training, to the number one Husky slot.
In Dave Wommack's defense, the Husky has to be a special athlete, one capable of covering slot receivers in open space, yet provide linebacker-type run support while taking on tight ends or whatever blockers come his way.
Mathews is taking nothing for granted.
"Just because I'm running with the ones right now doesn't mean I will stay there, so I have to stay the course. I have to do everything the coaches ask of me, keep working hard, do my job and keep learning," he said. "The Husky is a tough position, but I'm getting more comfortable there daily."
Husky, Mathews believes, fits his skill set.
"If you like contact, which I do, and you have good ball skills, which I think I do, it's the perfect position," he said. "I like to hit people every play and I like to cover receivers. It's a really active position.
"Plus, the Husky is used to blitz some and that's always a fun part of football. Getting in the pocket and causing some problems or getting a sack is a great feeling. If you can play Husky, you can play any position on the field, I believe."
For now, and this could change, his competition at Husky is Ivan Nicholas, but Denzel Nkemdiche has also played some there and some at free and strong safety.
"I'm pumped up about the position and about the team," he closed. "We just have to follow the lead of our coaches and play hard every snap. We are in the learning stages now, but once we get everything down, I think we'll be a good unit."
The free-wheeling Mathews is back at full steam. His abandon on the field has made him a fan favorite.
The "old" Brishen, he says, has returned.
The back issue is a thing of the past.
Brishen Mathews hurt his back last year and missed most of the season. He's back in the fold now, healthy and ready to go. Currently, he's the number one Husky.