Back in August when he was named the University of Toledo's starting quarterback, Austin Dantin made it clear he didn't come all the way from his native Tallahassee to sit on the bench.
It's safe to say, then, that his recent role as cheerleader and mentor has been a trying experience for him.
After leading UT to a 5-3 record as a starter, Dantin suffered a moderate-to-severe injury to his left (nonthrowing) shoulder in the first quarter of a 42-7 victory at Eastern Michigan on Oct. 30 and has been relegated to the sidelines since then.
"It's been extremely hard because I came up from Florida a long way from home to play football," said Dantin, a sophomore who appeared in seven games last season in place of an injured Aaron Opelt. "And if I'm not playing football, it's tough. I'm a big team guy, and I'm very happy that we're winning and T.O. has been doing a great job, but it does hurt."
Redshirt freshman Terrance Owens, known as T.O. to his teammates, has taken over for Dantin and led the Rockets to a 3-1 record.
UT coach Tim Beckman said Owens will be the Rockets' starting quarterback against Florida International in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26, but he didn't rule out Dantin seeing time as well.
Dantin has recently returned to the practice field and said he's aiming to make his return against FIU.
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"I would love to," Dantin said. "I wouldn't be out here if I didn't want to. That's basically my goal and has been my goal since they told me exactly what was going on. Even if I don't get to play that much, I would love to just get a couple series in, just to get back in there."
At this point, however, Dantin is far from 100 percent. He suffered a slight shoulder separation, along with fracturing his collarbone and sternum, at Eastern Michigan, and the normal recovery time for injuries like that is six-to-eight weeks.
"It's doing better," Dantin said. "I can definitely still feel it, and I'm not too sure about me taking a hit yet, but I'm definitely making strides."
Going forward, Dantin said he hasn't begun to think about winning back the starting job next season.
"Right now I'm just focused on the bowl game," he said. "Hopefully we can go up there and get a win, and then I'll go home with my family to celebrate Christmas."
Owens said he anticipates a challenge from Dantin but isn't ready to hand over the starting duties to him.
"College is about competition, and I expect it'll be a battle," Owens said. "Absolutely, I would like to remain the starter. I want to continue to get better and bring a championship to Toledo."
Owens said he hasn't spent much time reflecting on how this season played out, but it's obvious he's enjoying the experience as a starter.
"When it turned out that Austin got the starting job and I was just the backup, I just played my role and did whatever I could to help out the team," Owens said. "But then my number was called, and I just stepped up and just kept getting better. Things are going good for me."
Beckman has been noncommittal on who the Rockets' starting quarterback will be going into the 2011 season, other than to say it's up for grabs.
"That's why we practice," Beckman said. "We compete all the time in everything that we do. Austin Dantin was our starting quarterback, and he got injured. T.O. has come in and done an exceptional job. We're very privileged that we have two guys that can win football games for you.
"We'll go back to competing and see what happens [next season], but right now we're worried about Florida International."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.