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Pinckney’s Progress

Photo+courtesy+Rob+Moore.
Photo courtesy Rob Moore.

No athlete in any sport hopes or plans to get injured. Small injuries can be fought through, as adrenaline can help numb the pain. But those unfortunate enough to sustain season-ending injuries are forced to take a step back and watch their teams’ success or failures from the sidelines.

The Appalachian State Mountaineers football team accomplished an incredible feat by obtaining a 10-2 overall record and a Camellia Bowl victory in their first year of Football Bowl Subdivision post-season eligibility. Four months earlier, however, then-redshirt sophomore cornerback Brandon Pinckney suffered a season-ending knee injury. The pain of the injury was excruciating, but the thought of not being able to help propel his team to glory was worse.

“It was very hard, especially when you work so hard to get to a place where you’ve been here for three years and you finally get the shot and it just happens just like that,” Pinckney said. “It hurt real bad, but after the first day you find out, you get all your tears out and everything, and then its back to work.”

Despite being sidelined for the season, he found himself in with vital player-coach responsibility, helping develop the newcomers in junior-college transfer Mondo Williams and freshman Tae Hayes. Along with Latrell Gibbs, that cornerback unit combined for 10 of the defense’s 18 interceptions on the year.

“He played a huge role with helping me out at the cornerback position because I was coming in as a new guy,” Williams said. “Him being hurt just helped us even more, not really because he was hurt, but him being on the sideline and telling us the calls and helping me with what I had to do at corner. So I appreciate all his leadership.”

With that role in place for Pickney, one message stuck out that he always tried to reiterate to his teammates.

“Always be prepared and anything can happen,” Pinckney said. “I can get hurt, they can get hurt. Just always be prepared. That’s the biggest thing I wanted to put in their heads. ‘Next man up,’ be ready at all times.”

Now six months after the injury, Pinckney himself is recovered, prepared and feeling confident in the process. As of right now, he leads the team in interceptions in spring practices and secured his first pick in his first spring practice back from injury.

“There’s still that slight mental aspect because this is my first real action in six months,” he said. “But I mean I do feel really confident, I feel stronger than I did in August. I’m picking up where I left off and that’s the main goal — not to drop off.”

Cornerback coach Bryan Brown certainly knows what to expect of Pinckney in his three seasons with the defensive backs at App State. However, with Brown’s playing time at Ole Miss and four prior years of coaching experience, he understands the aspect of the injury, as well as playing after recovery.

“Anytime you have an injury you always come back, that leg or that arm or whatever comes back, stronger than ever,” Pinckney said. “The main thing about an injury like that is you have to come back with confidence and he’s a guy that has a lot of confidence and I think that’s definitely going to help him in the near future.”

The team doesn’t want to take any risks, however, and is keeping Pinckney from participating in any tackling drills until the fall.

“The main goal is to get him to fall camp,” Brown said.

Fall training camp is now just a couple months away and Pinckney hopes to recover his permanent spot among the team’s top cornerbacks. However, fighting for another exceptional season as an overall team seems to be his top priority.

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t be 11-2 if not 12-1,13-0,” Pinckney said. “Just looking at the team we have coming back, we lost two great players in Ronald Blair and Doug Middleton, but I feel like its no drop off in the two guys stepping into that position.”

Story by: Matt Krombach, Sports Reporter 

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