Miami QB D'Eriq King details his extensive rehab plan that got him back into the Hurricanes' lineup

See behind-the scenes of Miami QB D’Eriq King's rehabilitation from the ACL injury he sustained last season. (2:22).
D'Eriq King felt his right leg cave in when his cleat was caught in the turf. He then felt a sharp pain and fell to the ground.

Cassandra, his mother, was in Orlando's Camping World Stadium, Florida when her heart dropped. Keshon, his brother, was prepared for the worst. They raced towards the locker room where King did a series quick evaluations.

"Can you run?" Trainers asked him.

King began to run.

"Can you reverse?"

King backpedaled

He was relieved and wanted to get back into the game.

The trainers asked King to perform a series high knee skips. King tried but he lost his balance as soon as he placed his right foot down.

He said, "That was when I realized something was wrong."

King watched the remainder of the 2020 Cheez-It Bowl versus Oklahoma State from the sideline. He was using crutches and felt confused, angry, and hurt. Three days earlier King had announced his return to Hurricanes for the sixth and final season of college football. King wanted this to be a time of celebration and to say farewell to the most difficult year in his life.

His mother was still fighting breast cancer when 2020 started. He moved from Houston to Miami and left his hometown for the first times in his life. His father Eric died suddenly of a heart attack shortly afterward. The pandemic decimated campuses across the country. King did not get an offseason to fully learn about his new offense and teammates. King battled COVID-19 during the season. This is the end.

He couldn't help but wonder "Why me?" He wondered "Why me?" and "Why now?" King returned to Miami to undergo surgery on a torn ACL and meniscus. Instead of returning home to Houston, where he planned to spend winter break with his family, King drove back to Miami. The normal recovery time was nine to twelve months. Doctors could not guarantee that King would be able to play in the highly anticipated season opener against Alabama in Atlanta on Sept. 4.

King made the decision for himself. King would be there starting at quarterback and taking the first snap. 2020 would have been a season filled with tribulations, but 2021 would be a year of triumph.

King left the hospital in January after undergoing surgery and went straight to rehab. He sent Rhett Lashlee a quick text shortly afterward, saying, "I'm coming back faster than anyone has."

King stated, "When I tore the paper that night, it was clear to me that I was going play the first game. There was no doubt in our minds that I would return."

How did he manage it? ESPN got a glimpse into King's rehab from Day One to the present, which included two-a-day sessions and underwater training, gravity-altering treadmills, and careful film analysis of his running and cutting.

D'Eriq King was a quarterback who threw for 2,686 yards with 23 touchdowns, five interceptions and five touchdowns. He also ran for 538 yards and four additional scores. Douglas DeFelice/USA TODAY Sports

King was more than just a good doctor, trainer, or therapist. He relied on his father's work ethic and determination to get the job done.

Shawn Sims, a close friend of King, said that he has never met anyone like him. "It's almost like he loves adversity. He almost won't take on the journey if it is too easy or too complicated.

To get back on the field, the journey began with quad exercises that were mostly stretching. The strict focus was on helping the meniscus heal and then allowing the right knee to support any weight. Cassandra and Keshon stayed with D’Eriq to assist him in getting around. Keshon spent the first six weeks of his rehab with D'Eriq driving him to all sessions, making meals that fit his new nutrition plan (highly lean proteins, low fats), and helping with any other chores around the house.

To accelerate his recovery, D'Eriq went to rehab twice daily: once for breakfast, and then again for lunch. This was a steady pace that he maintained for the next three to four months. He moved from quad activation to balance exercise to strengthening the muscles of his leg to protect the knees and hamstrings. He continued to attend team meetings and lift with his teammates as part of his rehabilitation work.

Keshon stated, "It was inspiring, seeing him work so hard during the exercises, how serious it was, and how quickly he was making progress."

D'Eriq King had already started running 3 months before his surgery. He ran first on an antigravity treadmill, then on an underwater treadmill. This allowed doctors and therapists to determine how much weight his leg could support. D'Eriq King started out on the antigravity treadmill with 60% of his 195-pound weight. He then increased his speed by 10% until he was able to run with his full body weight.

King knew that he was ready for the season once he had cleared that benchmark.

There was still more to be done, including cutting the grass. Joe Girardi was a Miami football team's physical therapist and filmed every move King made to be able to view it later on in Girardi’s office. King was able to see the video and learn more about how to best protect his knee after surgery.

D'Eriq King used to run on an antigravity treadmill at 60% his 195-pound weight as part of his rehabilitation. He then increased his speed by 10% until he was able to run with his full body weight. Miami Athletics/ACCN

After D'Eriq King was able put weight on his right leg, balancing exercises such as this became part of his daily rehab program. Miami Athletics

They coached me in every way possible. King explained that if my right leg wasn't reaching as high as mine, they'd tell you. If my knee was beyond my body, they'd show me how to fix it.

King continued his rehab and made time for summer drills with his receivers. He emphasized their rhythm and timing with the deep ball, while King was still working with them. King stated that he felt 100% by the end of July. This is a far better timeline than the usual for injuries like his.

Girardi stated that it was necessary to "pull him back" more than push him forward. He's been able just to keep moving forward. There have been no setbacks. It's a slow-cooking process, and we are trying to keep moving forward and not backwards.

Girardi and his staff have been closely working with David Feeley, strength and conditioning director, and his team to ensure King's rehab and weight room are in perfect alignment. As King prepares for his match against Alabama, that relationship continues.

King and Girardi go to King and his team to do an extended warm up. This helps to strengthen his muscles and prepares him for lifting weights. King does exercises to activate his muscles before he goes to practice. He has another session with Girardi after practice to ensure there is no swelling, and to prepare for the next day.

King's preseason expectations are skyrocketing. King decided before his injury that he wanted to return home to Miami and win a championship. King immediately elevated the position of quarterback for the Hurricanes last season. This was a position that had been inconsistent over the past five seasons.

King, despite learning five different offenses in college football, threw for 2,686 yards, 23 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also ran for 538 yards and four additional scores. He said however that his last season was not up-to-his standards.

King stated that he felt like he didn't do the job last season and that he wants to play better. King said, "I left many plays out there."

It's a blessing to watch him endure what he has and still keep his focus and pursue his dreams. He says that I am the strongest person he has ever met, but I think he is the strongest person that I have ever known. Cassandra King is D'Eriq King’s mother

King stated that his comfort level with the offense is so high that he can check out plays and call audibles. This is something he didn't do much of last season. King said that he is comfortable in the offense because he will be playing for the same coordinator for the first time in consecutive seasons.

King stated, "This year it's open: You have keys to the car. So go drive it." It allows me to freely play, to my best ability, and not worry about 'Man, I hope this play is well-known' or if I have practiced it enough before calling it in a game. All in all, I feel more at ease.

Lashlee agreed with King that King understood the offense well and noted that King has been more responsive during fall practice than he had seen him hesitate or react.

Lashlee stated that his actions always match his words. Lashlee stated that while many people may say they are returning in an emotional moment, then they work hard for a month. When it gets monotonous or hard, or you have some bad days, or you don't get out there for spring baseball, maybe you lose your fire. He never did. He did have days when he felt like that. It's been amazing to watch him overcome so much adversity. He's so far thriving in it."

Cassandra King will smile through the nervousness that surrounds her every game when she takes her place in the Georgia Dome's Georgia Dome seat on Sept. 4. Her son made it possible for her to do what she thought impossible eight months ago.

She said, breaking down with emotion, "It does me good to see him go though what he's gone through and how he still maintains his focus and can still pursue his dreams," He always claims that I am the strongest person he has ever met, but I know him to be the strongest person I have ever known.