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Published: Monday, 4/21/2003

McGahee blows through rehab like Hurricane

His knee isn't back to full strength.

He still doesn't have the ability to cut or perform high-impact football drills.

But University of Miami running back Willis McGahee at less than 100 percent is probably better than a lot of players are whole.

Yes, it's a truly amazing story.

Three and a half months after Ohio State safety Will Allen's tackle in the Fiesta Bowl tore the anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in McGahee's left knee, McGahee will work out for NFL scouts and trainers tomorrow at Miami's campus in a final showcase for the April 26-27 draft.

McGahee's rehabilitation, about three months ahead of schedule, has been so phenomenal that some teams are considering selecting him in the first round.

In case you forget, McGahee became a sidelight in Ohio State's stunning Fiesta Bowl victory over Miami.

The Buckeyes' first national title in 34 years took precedence over everything, even McGahee's potentially career-threatening injury.

McGahee entered the Fiesta Bowl as a projected top-three pick in the draft, a likely target for the Detroit Lions.

McGahee's injury has been well-chronicled and a legitimate reason why he went from being one of the first players to be drafted to perhaps not being drafted at all.

The injury was so gruesome that it was advisable to watch the replay on an empty stomach.

McGahee's body looked cartoonish as his knee buckled and the rest of his leg sprang forward as if it had a life all its own.

Whether it was because of the pain or the realization that his promising career might end prematurely, a dream deferred, McGahee cried as he was carted from the field.

Who could blame him?

After learning the extent of McGahee's injury, it seemed almost inconceivable that he would be able to make a comeback so swiftly and convincingly.

But in his recovery, some positive things might be happening for the future.

Shockingly, McGahee already has full range of motion in his leg.

He recently started running lightly on a treadmill and has worked his way up to performing simple exercises that don't require a great deal of stress on his knee.

NFL scouts have changed their tune from skeptical to curious to optimistic regarding McGahee's comeback.

Doubt still lingered for some that McGahee could actually be the player who rushed for 1,753 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.

Then, from out of nowhere, word spread that McGahee was not only ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, he was making statements that indicated that he expected to play next season.

It's certainly not that McGahee is on track to carry the ball 20 times a game as an NFL rookie in 2003. Far from it.

But although he isn't back to full speed, McGahee is convincing more doubters that he's getting closer to once again running a 4.2 in the 40-yard dash and becoming the player he used to be.



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