Without hesitation, Derek Breneman said he would come back.
The leg injuries he suffered in mid-October during a Dover Area High School football game were severe enough that coaches and the trainer tried to shield him from teammates' sight. Breneman suffered a broken fibula and ankle, plus torn ligaments.
"I knew I'd be out here again," Breneman said this week, making good on his declaration.
Fall practices began Monday around Pennsylvania with sometimes sweltering heat in York County. The temperatures bothered some, but the 6-foot-1 senior with a sturdy 210-pound frame didn't care.
He couldn't walk for a month, stuck in a walking boot until Thanksgiving, after trying to spin out of tackle against York Suburban.
"The big black boot that we all hate," said quarterback Tyler Blazosky, who is also back from a broken leg.
Last season was riddled with injuries for Dover. Blazosky missed most of the year with a leg injury, then broke it upon his return a week after Breneman.
The Eagles were so shorthanded that Breneman's injury occurred while returning a punt, which he normally wouldn't be charged to do.
The chore added to duties for the starting linebacker and receiver. In addition to his offensive duties, Breneman played both tight end and split end. That should change this fall, as the Eagles' switch from a wing-T to spread offense requires less use of a tight end.
Breneman likes the switch, instituted by new coach Wayne Snelbaker. In turn, Snelbaker is happy to see the senior on the field.
"You wouldn't know he broke his leg," Snelbaker said.
Added senior running back Durran Ledbetter, "I feel like he's working hard and wants to prove a point this season."
Breneman said that point includes making late run like the Eagles' 2013 season, which included a YAIAA Division II title and District 3 playoff victory.
He already impressed his father, Craig Breneman, a 1984 Spring Grove graduate who played at Delaware Valley College. Craig Breneman said in November he wasn't sure he could come back from such an injury, yet here is his son.
There are still some reservations.
Like the time Derek put on the pads for heat acclimation last week and the first practice this week. Then there will be Saturday's scrimmage against Littlestown.
"He's a little nervous for the first time," Craig Breneman said. "He's played all these years and never had injuries."
That's why Derek's mother, Ilene, would issue pause this spring. Once the weather improved, Derek wanted to play basketball or go fishing. To him, fishing isn't just sitting in a boat; it's climbing rocks to find the right spot.
His physical therapist told him to ease into everything, a sentiment echoed by Blazosky with his recovery.
"I think he's back 100 percent and still ices his ankle," Craig Breneman said of his son. "That's by habit at this point."
A reminder of Derek's injuries is a 6-inch incision, where his doctor placed a metal plate in his leg, and the screws that can be felt with a touch.
With that in mind, football might not be in his future beyond this season. Craig Breneman said they will wait and see how this fall goes before determining whether he wants to continue the family trend; uncle Brian Breneman played at Delaware Valley and cousin Adam Breneman is at Penn State recovering from a knee injury.
Derek keeps busy anyway. He wants to major in accounting or finance. So in between this week's two-a-day practices, he spends two hours working a part-time job as a drive-through bank teller for Members 1st. The job is part of a program through school in which one senior is selected every year.
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.