MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Rehabbing a single injury takes an emotional toll. Now multiply that by three.
WVU redshirt junior defensive end Taijh Alston has sustained three major injuries during his time playing college football. Prior to WVU, his freshman season with the East Carolina Pirates produced an ACL injury that sidelined him for the remainder of 2017 and forced him to redshirt before he’d played a single snap.
As he rehabbed from the surgery, he tested the community college waters at Copiah-Lincoln, but quickly transferred to West Virginia when head coach Neal Brown, whose staff knew him from his community college success, expressed interest. He immediately enrolled at WVU in January 2019.
Two games into the Neal Brown era though, Alston’s positive uptick was cut short. He tore his patellar tendon in the same right knee during the 38-7 loss to Missouri. He had logged his first Mountaineer sack and TFL in the season opener against James Madison, but Missouri dealt him the devastating blow during a sack attempt. Having sustained two significant injuries in three seasons, Alston was focused solely on rehabilitation and getting back to his “new prime”. He remained out the rest of the 2019 season, and figured that once his knee rehab had concluded, he was in the clear.
It wasn’t to be. He was essentially out for the entirety of the 2020 season as well, when he tore his Achilles during winter workouts. When he returned, he logged a single tackle during the Liberty Bowl win over Army. As he looked forward to the next season, he swore that his redshirt junior playing career would be the break he desperately needed.
Through all the adversity, Alston never gave up fighting for his position on the field. It earned him national attention earlier this season, when he was nominated for the Football Writers Association of America’s Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Now, he’s been nominated for a second award: the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award. Three nominees per week are selected for 10 weeks; Alston is joined by Kyle Ford (WR, USC) and Dalvin Smith (WR, WKU) in this final week’s selections.
CONGRATS @CoSIDANews #MayoClinicCPOY Nominees @Taijh01 | @WVUFootball | @DalvinSmith270 | @WKUFootball | @Ford_Kyle6 | @USC_FB | for your hard work to COME BACK from injury. Learn their comeback stories at https://t.co/nfuXgG5Xus. Give them a LIKE or RT to say GOOD| JOB! pic.twitter.com/1swXREhNJH
— ComebackPlayrFB (@ComebackPlayrFB) November 16, 2021
The other 27 nominees are: Terrel Bernard (LB, Baylor); Shamari Brooks (RB, Tulsa); Yohance Burnett (LB, Tulsa); Noah Cain (RB, Penn State); Sean Chambers (QB, Wyoming); Jack Coan (QB, Notre Dame); Brandon Council (OL, Auburn); Tobias Harris (DB, West Texas A&M); Ryan Hubley (WR, Johns Hopkins); Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan); Brian Kearns, Jr. (RB, Stonehill College); Alex Keith (DL, Washington & Jefferson College); Cole Maxwell (DL, Baylor); Ricky Miezan (LB, Stanford); McKenzie Milton (QB, Florida State); John Mitchell (TE, Florida Atlantic); Jeremiah Moon (LB, Florida); Patrick Paul (OL, Houston); Cameron Rising (QB, Utah); Reggie Roberson, Jr (WR, SMU); Justyn Ross (WR, Clemson); Avery Samuels (OL, Stetson); Corey Sutton (WR, Appalachian State); Skylar Thompson (QB, Kansas State); Demitri Washington (Edge, Boise State); and J.J. Weaver (LB, Kentucky).