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Injured Ball State wide receiver Love likely done with football

Monday, September 22, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

MUNCIE -- Dante Love may never catch another pass or play another football game at Ball State.

But the senior receiver will always have a special place in the hearts of Cardinals teammates, coaches and fans.

School officials said Monday that Love is expected to live a normal, healthy life after breaking his spine and sustaining a spinal cord injury during Saturday's game, although he'll likely have to give up the sport that turned him into an NFL prospect.

"His football career is expected to be over," coach Brady Hoke said. "He has touched a lot of lives and he will continue to do so."

Hoke declined to give medical details about Love's condition, citing privacy concerns, although he said Love was expected to be moved out of the critical care unit later Monday. He would not say when Love might be released from the hospital.

Ball State officials said Love could move his arms and legs after five hours of surgery early Sunday morning, an encouraging sign after Saturday's frightening scene at Indiana.

Love was injured early in the second quarter after catching a short pass, then turned up the field and collided with Indiana cornerback Chris Adkins in front of the Hoosiers sideline.

He spent about 15 minutes on the ground before being strapped to a backboard and lifted onto a golf cart that pulled away with his parents running behind it. Initially, Love went to Bloomington Hospital before being transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

With the help of the Indiana State Police, Hoke raced from the game to Methodist on Saturday night. Hoke, Indiana coach Bill Lynch and Lynch's wife were all at the hospital Sunday. The Lynches knew Love because one of their sons, Joey, was a quarterback at Ball State and played with Love.

Teammates continued to offer support and express concern for Love on Monday, and one, running back MiQuale Lewis, acknowledged it was tough to get through the film sessions when they had to watch the replay.

"At first, I watched it back-to-back a couple of times," Lewis said. "After that, I just couldn't watch it again. It was just too hard."

Love played an essential role in Ball State's rising fortunes after arriving from Withrow High School in Cincinnati.

He ranks second on Ball State's all-time list for receptions (199) and yards receiving (2,778), is tied for fourth in TD receptions (20) and is the career leader in kickoff return yards (2,129).

This season started with greater promise.

He helped Ball State open the season with four straight wins, the program's best start since 1988, and was leading the nation in receiving yards per game (144.3) before the Cardinals upset Indiana 42-20 for the school's first win ever against a BCS school. Ball State received six points in this week's Top 25 poll.

The fleet 5-foot-9, 179-pound receiver was also drawing increased interest from NFL scouts, and he appeared headed toward fulfilling a lifelong dream of playing professional football -- a dream that changed in an instant.

"That's the worst part of this game that you ever want to be around," Hoke said. "It is an ugly part of this game."

As teammates tried to turn their attention to this week's Mid-American Conference game with Kent State, they struggled to cope with the loss of a leader and the emotions of having a friend who meant so much to them still in the hospital.

"It's been pretty tough knowing he's not going to be with us, but he's always going to be a part of this team," tight end Darius Hill said. "It definitely takes a lot (of the concern) off, knowing that he's going to be all right down the road."

Ball State was already making the necessary adjustments.

It listed true freshman Briggs Orsbon as Love's replacement at receiver, and Hoke said he would have to choose between three players about who will replace Love on kickoffs.

But, understandably, those decisions were overshadowed by what was going on in Indianapolis.

And, apparently, Love won't stay completely away from football.

"You know, he was already telling coach (Stan) Parrish who should get his place," Hoke said without elaborating on the recommendation. "The role we want him to play is to get better. That's what his teammates want, that's what we all want because of the respect we have for him. That will always be there, and he will always be in our thoughts."



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