Anyone worried when they saw Patrick DiMarco walk through the practice-field gate wearing the non-contact yellow jersey and a mile of bandage around his left forearm only felt that way for a few seconds.
Even a hairline fracture in a limb that will be out front and center toward defenders won't keep him from playing.
"It's nothing," DiMarco said, holding his arm up. "It's like a little break in there. I'll pad it up for the first game and I'll be fine."
According to some medical opinions, those kind of fractures can linger. The only sure way to get them better is to rest and not aggravate them.
"I'll be ready," DiMarco said a week before tonight's season-opener, despite him missing practice for the past week. "I may be sore, but I'll be ready."
Team captain for the second straight year, listed as the starter at two positions, one of three team representatives at SEC Media Days, DiMarco isn't going to let a simple fracture -- which could be classified as a broken arm -- stop him. There are games to play and roles to fill.
He's always brought physicality to his fullback role, sending scribes scrambling for the last time he actually lost a yard with the ball in his hands. After spring practice, he was also listed as starting tight end, which seemed to foreshadow the situation that has hovered over the other main candidate for tight end (Weslye Saunders) all preseason.
Those roles are plenty big, but DiMarco has another to fill. Although one of four team captains last year as well as this year, he feels he has to step up in that spot in addition to his on-the-field duties.
"Our strength coach (Craig Fitzgerald) pulled me aside, said, 'Look. We understand your situation. You're not going to screw up. You'll do the right thing,'" DiMarco said. "'But we need you to be more vocal. We need you to grab some guys and say, 'Look, quit doing this stuff.' We've got to try to do things this year. People might not like you for it, but so be it. They're going to respect you.'"
To do so more than they already do will be a tough chore.
"Pat is a football player," running backs coach Jay Graham said before camp began. "He's the kind of guy you want to have on your team. Works hard, never in trouble, just a great, great kid."
"He's a good guy to be behind," said tailback Kenny Miles, who is often following DiMarco into those vanishing holes between linemen. "You may not think it when you look at him, but he can really hit."
Not bad praise from a guy who, when he first came to USC and even a couple of times when he was being recruited, was labeled by the wrong name.
"Yeah, ol' Chris DiMarco has done really well," Steve Spurrier said three years ago. As much as the compliment pleased him, DiMarco was forced to realize his coach was thinking of his famous golf-playing uncle instead of the guy on his team.
But it was OK. It passed.
"It's been a while since he called me that," he said good-naturedly.
With the right name in tow, DiMarco's toughness will be called on from the first snap. He'll be leading with his forearms, and even with a pad on it, smashing it into a facemask or chest across the line can't feel good. He has taken it easy in practice leading up to tonight, sometimes wearing full pads and participating but also protecting the arm as much as possible, so he can be as ready as he can be.
The bandage is lengthy enough to where it won't be covered by a wristband. There will be some of it visible to whoever lines up against DiMarco or comes charging at him.
In short, it's a target.
Sort of how the defender is in DiMarco's eyes.
"You've got to want to do things, you've got to want to knock the guy across the ball, you've got to want to knock him for a little whirlwind," DiMarco said, describing his philosophy. "That's the only way to get where you're going."
His direction has always been forward.
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