Gophers junior linebacker John Carlson told himself that if he suffered another serious injury after returning from ACL surgery this fall that he would consider hanging up his helmet and shoulder pads for good.
Unfortunately for Carlson, that moment came last week. Carlson has decided to end his football career after suffering another injury to his left knee.
Carlson, a popular player in the locker room who has experienced more than his share of medical setbacks, said he came to his decision after another surgery on his left knee last week.
"It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make," Carlson said. "I put in a lot of hard work the last four years. You build such strong relationships with your teammates and coaches. I tried my best, but this is the right thing to do."
Carlson tore the lateral collateral ligament and the lateral meniscus in his left knee during a special-teams drill early in camp. He tore his ACL in the same knee during spring practice. Carlson received a ligament from a cadaver in that surgery so that his rehabilitation time would be shorter and allow him to start fall camp on time.
"It's just disappointing because I felt good and was moving up the depth chart," he said.
Carlson was getting some reps with the second-team defense and would have been a staple on special teams.
Carlson's entire career was marred by setbacks. A standout quarterback at Hopkins High, he graduated early and enrolled at Minnesota in January 2004 so that he could compete in spring practice. But he was diagnosed as having mononucleosis almost immediately.
Then he suffered a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder in fall camp that year and was moved to safety.
"I had never played defense," he said, laughing.
He moved to linebacker last season but then suffered a Grade II separation in his same shoulder. Carlson still experiences some discomfort when he sleeps on his right side.
He was excited about his opportunities with new coaching staff, but he tore his ACL this spring and then suffered this latest injury.
Carlson said he hopes to be around the team as much as possible this season. He is scheduled to graduate in December with a degree in housing studies management finance.
"I learned a lot of life lessons the last four years," he said.
Gophers coach Tim Brewster had no real surprises in his first two-deep of the season. Among the notables:
D.J. Burris and Ned Tavale are still competing for the starting spot at right guard.
True freshman Duane Bennett moved ahead of Jay Thomas at No. 2 tailback.