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VIEWS: Former DeKalb running back battling rehab, stigma of being injury prone

Fate hasn't been kind to Dre Brown the past two spring football seasons.

The former DeKalb star running back and current Illinois redshirt freshman had surgery for for a torn ACL for a second year in a row – announcing on Twitter that he had surgery on Wednesday. Brown said he tore his left ACL during practice on April 18, ending his football season before it began once again. Last year, almost a year to the date, he tore his right ACL during practice on April 16.

There is good news for Brown in all of this, and of course, there is bad news.

On the bright side, according Robert G. Marx, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, it's easier to come back from tearing each ACL once – as opposed to if Brown had torn his right ACL for the second time.

The bad news?

After losing back-to-back seasons with knee injuries, it's awfully hard not to see the large rubber stamp bearing down on him, labeling the former Barbs star one of the worst things an athlete can be called: "injury prone."

When Brown – who also dislocated his shoulder late in his senior season at DeKalb – announced his injury on April 19, even he mentioned that he wasn't sure if a long football career was still in the cards.

"Don't know what God has planned for me next," he said in his message. "If Football may be for me in the future or not. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers," read the Twitter message. "This will be a long process with a lot (of) question marks and hopefully I find some answers (along) the way."

Illinois first-year coach Lovie Smith briefly mentioned Brown's situation after a practice on April 22.

"When you have an injury like that, it's nothing to celebrate," Smith said of Brown, who came to Illinois as a three-star recruit and was reported to possibly be Illinois' backup running back this season. "He's come back from an injury before, he'll come back from this one."

It's always been an interesting question to ponder: are some players truly more prone to injury? Or are they simply the victims of unfortunate fate?

According to Marx, author of the book "The ACL Solution," the concept of being injury prone is a real thing. It stems from how an athlete plays the game, as well as other innate factors such as their balance, body alignment and physical makeup.

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose knows how a series of unforunate events can saddle a player with the dreaded injury-prone label.

Rose's injury report rivals a grocery list, and many of the injuries are leg related, likely because of how much he cuts when he is in the lane. But even when he broke his face – he suffered an orbital fracture after being elbowed in the face during practice – in late September 2015, fans groaned.

Of course Rose got hurt. He always gets hurt.

Even though it was an injury in which Rose was a victim of circumstance, it felt like fate.

Former star Northern Illinois wide receiver Tommylee Lewis was having an All-American season his junior year in 2013 before injuries diminished the rest of his collegiate career. He injured his big toe – which essentially kept him out until the 2014 season. He injured his ankle on the first drive of the 2015 season and later hurt his knee in a game at Toledo. He missed four games in 2015, his last season at NIU, with only 34 catches for 398 yards.

What makes Lewis' situation so unfortunate is each injury was to a different body part – toe, ankle, knee.

Earlier this spring, Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey was talking about oft-injured running back Keith Harris Jr. – who was limited to two games in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons – and said that sometimes things like that just happen.

"You see those guys and their careers and what do you attribute that to?" Carey said. "Bad luck? Injury prone? I don't believe in any of it. I think it's just circumstance that happens for a kid. Unfortunately, he's had some bad circumstances a few times in a row."

It felt like one of those moments of an old school football school being at odds with the medical community.

If Brown can somehow slowly return back to better than brand new, it could be good news for the Illini – and fans of the DeKalb football team. In his final three seasons with the Barbs, he rushed for 3,790 yards and 46 touchdowns – leading DeKalb in 2014 to its first conference championship since 1989 – and was named the Daily Chronicle Football Offensive Player of the Year in 2014.

The ambitious Brown decided to graduate early from DeKalb and make it to Illinois early for the spring season. He was "rewarded" for his ambition by blowing out his knee days before the spring game.

Fate can be a real jerk sometimes.

• Jesse Severson is a sports reporter at the Daily Chronicle and can be reached at

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