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Posted on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

David Molk opens up about playing through a torn tendon, rehab and proving his doubters wrong

By Kyle Meinke


David Molk

A room full of trainers, and only two choices.

Center David Molk had severed a tendon in his right foot during the opening moments of the Michigan football team's Sugar Bowl warmups. Doctors didn't know that at the time. All they knew was Molk had hurt his foot badly, and they figured he could hurt it more by playing.

Molk was supposed to begin training for the NFL draft the next day. The Senior Bowl loomed after that, and an invitation to the combine in February.

And so, sitting on a Superdome training table, the team's medical staff asked him if wanted to play, risking further injury that could imperil his draft stock, or sit out, and miss the culmination of his decorated five-year college career.

He was advised not to play.

He played.


David Molk works out recently in preparation for the NFL Combine.

Kyle Meinke

"It’s really scary, because you don’t know what it is, the doctors don’t know what it is, the trainers don’t know what it is, and that’s unsettling," Molk said this week. "And then with the NFL stuff coming, my body is my investment now.

"There is a thought that goes through your head, 'Should I play? Should I go at all?' But I can’t watch a game. One play in, and I knew I was going in."

The peroneal longus tendon keeps the foot from falling outward. It's what is stretched when an ankle is rolled, and it is what Molk snapped by taking a "very normal, very average" step during warmups. There was no contact, no cutting. The tendon simply severed.

Molk said he thinks it snapped because it was rubbing against a piece of jagged bone left over from a 2009 injury.

"Rope on a sharp edge," he said. "Wear, wear, wear, wear ... snap."

Molk knew it was bad, but didn't scream. He didn't yell. He barely limped, walking over to position coach Darryl Funk to furtively tell him something was wrong.

"Can you play?" asked Funk.

"We'll see," Molk said.

They went back to the training room, where doctors put him through a battery of tests. It was excruciating. He continued to keep the injury hidden, even from his quarterback, Denard Robinson.

"When I was sitting in the training room, Denard came in and was like, 'Molk, you all right? You all right?' And I said, “Yeah, Shoe, don’t worry about me. Go outside with the guys.'

"I didn’t want the attention. The more attention I gathered, the more the rest of the team was going to go, ‘Oh (crap), something's bad.’ I didn’t want anyone to know, because I didn’t want anyone to get psyched out."

They did anyway, when Molk — their captain and Rimington Award winner as the nation's top center — couldn't start for the first time in 26 games.

Instead, it was backup Rocko Khoury who got the nod for the first series.

Three snaps. Three muffed exchanges. One punt.

"I was just like, ‘All right, let’s just tape it and go,'" Molk said.

The pain was severe. Doctors offered to numb it, but he declined.

"I knew I had torn something, and I wanted to feel it," he said. "I knew I did something really bad, so I wouldn’t let them numb it so I could feel it the entire game and know what is going on down there (in case I hurt it more)."

Molk didn't hurt it more, but it hurt plenty as he helped lead Michigan past Virginia Tech to earn the second BCS win in school history.

He went out a winner. But his battle is far from over.

Molk underwent his fifth career surgery on Jan. 13 to repair the tendon. The procedure was performed at Indiana University Health Hospital in Indianapolis by Dr. David Porter, to whom Molk was recommended by his agent, Chicago-based Rick Smith of Priority Sports & Entertainment.

He said his surgeon told him recovery time would be around four months, but that he's a quick healer.

"I was supposed to be on crutches two weeks," he says. "I made it four days."

Molk lost 9 pounds because of the surgery and now is in a walking boot as he tries to prepare for the NFL. He said he's heard projections ranging from late first to early third round, but acknowledges his stock has taken a hit, and that frustrates him.

Scouts project him to be an early- to mid-round choice, but question his size, which is listed by Michigan as 6-foot-2, 286 pounds. He also will have to answer questions about whether he's injury prone after missing much of 2009 due to a broken foot, then a torn ACL.

Now, he has the ruptured tendon that will prevent him from running at the NFL Combine in February. That could impact his stock as well, since one of his defining strengths is his speed.

He'll only be able to bench. It's killing him.

"I’ve watched what the combine numbers come in at," Molk said. "I’ve seen it every year, and I can beat every single guy. I feel as if I could have gone into the combine and set a record in every single event, and that kills me."

Molk also had to withdraw from the Senior Bowl, where teammate Mike Martin has been impressing scouts this week. The game is at 4 p.m. Saturday in Mobile, Ala. (NFL Network).

He has been working out, though, despite orders to still be using crutches. Like five teammates, he has enlisted former Michigan strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis to help prepare him for the draft. And they're not taking it easy.

Molk said he hopes to be healthy enough to participate in OTAs with his new team this summer, but isn't certain he'll be available.

He's certain of one thing, though: He has doubters.

And he knows exactly where they can go.

"It's just, stuff like that pisses me off," Molk said, voice rising. "Any scout who denies me pisses me off. 'Oh, this is what you got. You’re not good enough.'

"Well, (to hell with) you, let me show you what I got."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.


Howard Elzinga

Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

David you have convinced me! The losers will be those doubters who would think that a fat overweight from any other school can accomplish what you have over your career. Without you there WE would have been at a total and complete loss without the leader of the pack. The mental acuity, experience, and football IQ cannot be measure but in wins and leadership. Anyone who would turn down the opportunity to draft you knows not a winner! A "MICHIGAN MAN " par excellent. Perfect for framing on my wall of pain and fame, Thanks DAVID FOR YOUR YEARS HERE! NOW its onward and upward. The possibility is the Patriots will see in you what they saw in TOM BRADY ! GOD BLESS AND GOOD LUCK, SEE YOU ON SUNDAY--COACH --Z


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Wow. What an inspiring story. True man.Ttrue warrior. If Molk didn't play, we lose that game for sure. How much guts too play with a torn tendon! This guy is all heart and all commitment to the team. What a throwback player. Like Dominick Raiola- he'll have an excellent pro career. Mr. Molk we salute you. So say we all.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:49 p.m.

Am I the only one who worries when our number two guy can't even play a lick of football? I'm glad molk could go back in, but if he couldn't then we would have been stuck with a center who can't even get the ball to the QB. Is he our starter for next season?


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

Hey now take it easy on our guy Rocko. My son plays center in middle school, and it is really critical that a center and a QB take a lot of snaps together: shotgun in particular. Rocko has done well at other times filling in for Molk, and the coaching staff probably should have put Denard under center for the first series just so Rocko could settle in. Shotgun snaps going high are a sign of a nervous center trying to get the snap off and his block up all at once. Can you imagine coming into the Sugar Bowl thinking Molk is here. Molk seems healthy. Molk didn't come down here injured. Molk just said "don't worry". I am ready to go in, but it's not likely, and then all of a sudden you are starting? No notice. No warm up snaps.Even the seasoned starters have jitters the first series of a bowl game: and they expected to go in. If anything, maybe Molk's decision to tell them not to worry did more of a disservice than a service. Then Denard and Rocko could have warmed up together more. Michigan will be fine. There will be a competition for starting center in the spring and into fall camp. Then, whoever gets the not will get a lot of practice time with Denard. Whoever it is won't be David Molk. But they'll manage.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 6:11 p.m.

The center/QB exchange requires timing and feel, just like getting used to receivers for a QB. Khoury came in cold, and the timing between he and Robinson was definitely off. They've got plenty of time to correct that over the offseason if Khoury is going to be the guy. I'm not worried about it at this point.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

No kidding. That first series was jaw dropping.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

Did you feel that same way about the field goal kicker last year ?


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

During the regular season I didn't see Molk miss a single block. During the Sugar Bowl when I saw Molk watch his assigned block go right by him and sack Denard I knew something was up. Thank God for Michigan that he played injured or we would have lost for sure. The guy is an absolute warrior. I can't wait to see him in the NFL.

Dumpsterfire Jones

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

lol (gets all wild eyed) Yeah! Yeah! I saw it too!! Can't believe the Sugar Bowl has gone this renegade. Ineligible Ohio players one year and rogue, armed ACC refs the next.

sun runner

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

I wish Mr. Molk all the best in his recovery and preparation for the NFL! I suffered a devastating lower leg injury six miles into a half marathon last year. My plantaris tendon ruptured and my gastroc and soleus muscles tore. It was excruciating. I had two choices: give in to the pain and drop out of the race, or gut it out for the final seven miles. (I didn't know exactly what had happened, just that it was really, really bad.) Of course I finished. Quitting was not an option. I jog/walked the rest of the race. It was my slowest half ever, but I finished. Yeah, running on my shredded leg probably didn't do it any favors, and I ended up in physical therapy for the entire summer, but quitting was NOT AN OPTION. I'm stubborn and determined to succeed as it appears Mr. Molk is stubborn and determined to succeed. (I had one of those awful plastic boots, too. I called it Frankenboot. If I had to wear it, I might as well find humor in the situation.) Good luck, Mr. Molk! GO BLUE!!


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

Oh oh. A runners quarrel.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

There is a big difference between playing in your last game in college as a Michigan Wolverine with a very big game on the line versus a given half marathon event. There is a fine line between poor judgement, courage and true grit. In Dave Molk's case, he had nothing to lose. The rehab could take as long as required, even with pro prospects ahead. In your case, you were unable to run all summer because of your decision. There is always another half marathon event or simply, wait until next year and give it another go. My motto is to live to run another day, after learning the hard way. Sometimes, quitting is the only option and there is no shame in that. It is difficult to comprehend this example of a comparison to Dave Molk.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Actually, it wasn't due to old injury. During warmups, I saw an ACC official aim a very tiny arrow right at Molk's foot and hit it right on the spot. I think this is a coverup and that there ought to be an investigation by the Big Ten conference.