Despite three serious injuries, WVU’s Alston continues to put pressure on him
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Taijh Alston refused to let the serious injuries he suffered rule his college football career.
He suffered his first serious knee injury while in East Carolina, ending his freshman season early and forcing him to hit the reset button by transferring to Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Mississippi.
The second he endured in the first quarter of the West Virginia game in Missouri two years ago ended his second season in 2019.
Then, in the summer leading up to the 2020 season, Alston was doing a pocket exercise when he felt something burst in the back of his foot. This time he tore his Achilles tendon, which meant he had to spend even more time in the training room.
It was at this point that he decided that he did not want his college football career to end on a training table even though he was emotionally rock bottom. He decided to put his body in order and move on.
“I just had to dig deep and (understand) that (playing football) is what I wanted to do,” Alston said on Tuesday afternoon. “I love the game and didn’t want an injury to rule my career.”
Defense Coordinator Jordan Lesley was close to see the second and third injuries.
“I remember the day he was injured last summer and I was with some kids who had serious injuries and who can be in a really bad place, but Taijh didn’t blink their eyes,” admitted he to. “That says a lot about him.”
They say injuries are a part of football; Well, Alston certainly has had more than his fair share. He admits that what he suffered in Missouri was the most painful, physically and probably mentally, because he worked so hard to become a defensive end on a Power 5 program.
But that second basically brought him back to first place.
“It really messed me up,” he admitted. “I just had to dig deep.”
For those who have never played college sports, it’s hard to understand how much time a player would have to spend coming back from a serious injury, let alone three in four years. Alston has spent a lot more time with the sports coaches and team doctors than he does with his teammates, which makes him so grateful every time he gets the opportunity to practice or play.
According to Lesley, that’s what drives him today.
“I think what makes taijh different from other players at this level is that taijh is really, really hungry,” he said. “It bothers him a lot that he lost a lot of time in his career – a key time in his career due to a transfer situation – and it motivates him.
“Motivate is probably a better word, don’t disturb, and you see that in everything he does,” added Lesley.
This is the best football track Alston has played in his life and Wilmington is on Interstate 74.
Alston has had at least one loss tackle in all five West Virginia games this season and currently leads the team with eight negative yardage games.
Among them are four sacks, two of them in West Virginia’s 16-13 loss to fourth place in Oklahoma.
The 6-foot-4,245-pounder currently ranks first in the Big 12 and No. 9 nationally in Tackles for Loss, and in just eight career games in three seasons it has produced five sacks and 10 TFLs. If Alston can keep up this pace for the rest of the season, all those long hours in the training room will be worth it.
“I feel like my explosiveness has returned,” Alston admitted. “During these two years of rehabilitation and training a lot, I feel like I’m more explosive off the ball and it has helped me a lot.”
Alston’s competitiveness also helped a lot.
“The thing about our D-Line room is that we’re all competitive,” he said. “We want to be the first to get quarterback. It’s really like racing for the ball. It feels good to have guys on the same mission as you – it makes you tougher with each repetition.”
Due to COVID-19, Alston’s 2020 junior season is basically a makeover so he has even more college entitlements despite this being his fifth year. He admits that he hasn’t really given much thought to what’s in front of him after this season.
He just enjoys the moment, which means playing and practicing with his boys instead of going into rehab with a few coaches and doctors.
“Before I got injured, I’d just do a workout,” Alston admitted. “But now I’m enjoying training because I know everything can be taken away. I just try to have fun, make the most of it, and be grateful.
“I feel like I still have a lot of football in me,” he added. “Now that I know how to take care of my body, stay in rehab and do the things I have to do, I feel like I’ll be in a good position to keep playing this game.”
How long and how far can that be?
“As far as he wants,” said Lesley.
When the last chapter of Taijh Alstons Football career is written, he believes that the experiences he has had over the past five years have made him a much stronger person whenever and wherever it may be.
“Even after I’m done with football, I feel that this will help me deal with adversity in my life and directly fight and attack them,” he concluded.