BELLFLOWER, Calif. — There was a scare during the second half of Mater Dei’s (Santa Ana, California) win Saturday.
Left tackle Myles Murao stayed on the ground after a quick blitz by a defender. Murao, one of the top linemen in the country, appeared to have a leg injury.
Last year, Murao lost half a season to a broken fibula in his right foot and four torn ligaments. Seeing him on the ground brought back a flood of memories.
But Murao was favoring his left leg as he limped off the field Saturday, not the right.
“I think he was a little shaken because of the injury last year, mentally,” Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson said. “‘No, not again’ — as soon as he got off, he realized, ‘OK, I’m OK.'”
Murao felt his left knee buckle from under him and had a slight hyperextension.
Minutes later, Murao was standing without help on the sideline. He rocked from foot to foot, testing the pressure he could apply to it. He was fine.
Murao eventually even returned to the game against then-No. 4 St. Frances of Baltimore.
But that mental issue that Rollinson referred to has nagged Murao as he gets closer to full recovery from last year’s injury. The four-star Washington commit believes his own mind is the main thing holding him back from playing at 100%.
“Last year … I was better. I still feel like it’s a mental thing a little bit,” Murao said. “I feel like as the season goes along it’ll go away.”
Fear of re-injury can hamper progress. Murao said he’s been told repetition will help convince him he’s back to normal. After missing the second half of last season, he also sat out during spring practices, so he hasn’t seen much live action since the injury.
His recovery went astoundingly fast. Murao said doctors told him he likely wouldn’t be able to walk for five months. He was expected to miss the 2019 regular season.
Murao was back walking in two months.
“I had to hold him back (from working out more),” Rollinson said.
“I was thinking, the more I do, the faster I come back, but that’s not the case,” Murao said.
“It was a full-time job to make sure that he wasn’t taking it beyond the doctor and beyond the physical therapist,” Rollinson said. He had to hold him to the weekly and monthly schedule, break to Murao that he wouldn’t play in spring practice, and instead, in summer, “turn you loose.”
The postseason timeline from doctors was tossed out the window as Murao proved he was ready to return. After sitting out spring practices, Murao impressed during The Opening in July, taking on Clemson commit Bryan Bresee, who’s ranked No. 1 in the USA TODAY High School Sports Chosen 25.
In the first game of the season, Murao was charged with stopping Korey Foreman, widely regarded as one of the top two players in the 2021 class. Saturday, he went up against four-star LSU commit Demon Clowney of St. Frances.
Murao has consistently won.
“Myles had to work five times as hard just to get back on the field, just to get back to the level he was at while others were taking it for granted,” quarterback Bryce Young said. “The fire he plays with now, because he had it taken away and he had to work so hard to get back, it’s as hard as I’ve seen almost anyone working. I have so much respect for him.”
Ideally, Rollinson would like to see Murao drop 10 more pounds to get closer to 300 — right now, Murao is listed at 6-foot-2, 312 pounds — but that, along with the mental fortitude, should come as the season progresses.
The scar on his leg begins well above the ankle and runs down several inches to the foot. As he looked at it poking over his sock after practice Friday, Murao got contemplative without prompting.
“I feel like it’s taught me a lot,” he said. “How stuff can get taken away so easily. Try to appreciate everything that I have. Being so blessed, being able to go to college for free and stuff like that is such a blessing.”