AUBURN, Ala. — Ten months later, Josh Holsey feels like he's back to his old self.
But for Auburn's junior defensive back, it's been a long road back to this point. Holsey tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee just days before Auburn's game against Texas A&M last October. Even more infuriating, the injury occurred on a freak, non-contact play.
Surprisingly, Holsey isn't bitter about the situation.
"I just felt like it was meant to happen," he said. "If it happened like that, I felt like it was meant to happen. I couldn't really get down about it like I was before. I had a lot of positive people talk to me and tell me to just keep my head up. It was just a minor setback for something major to come. I just had to get the right mind-set to come back."
Never miss a local story.
It took him only five months to return to health; his injury occurred Oct. 17, and by the time Auburn opened spring practice March 19, Holsey was ready to go. As a precautionary measure, the Tigers' coaching staff opted to hold him out of contact drills. Otherwise, he was able to participate in all 15 spring sessions.
As much as he likes to hit, Holsey understood the decision.
"I felt like I would have been able to go and play in a game — the whole entire game — but Coach (Gus) Malzahn and (defensive coordinator) Coach (Ellis) Johnson didn't want me to do anything, just wanted to be on the safe side for the season and not risk anything or re-hurt anything during springtime."
How did he return to health so quickly?
Holsey credited a vigorous rehab regimen, which had him doing "2-3" sessions every day. It wasn't easy, but Holsey knew it was going to be an arduous, protracted process.
"Making sure I was staying on top of all my table work and everything they told me to do and just having the right mind-set was really the big thing about getting back for anybody having injuries," he said. "You just have to have the right mind-set to know that you're ready to get back on the field. Being on the sidelines is really boring, so I had to make sure I got back sooner than later."
And he had seen enough of the sideline as it is thanks to last season. Watching the last nine games of the Tigers' remarkable 2013 campaign was arguably more difficult for Holsey to deal with than the rehab — at least in the early going. For a week after the season-ending injury occurred, Holsey was depressed.
But the longer he had to compartmentalize things, the better he began to feel.
"I was just happy to be with my teammates and watch them do the things we did and finish the season as we did," he said. "It was a bad thing not being able to play but just being able to be around my teammates was still a good thing."
Now that he's back on the field, Holsey has returned to a familiar spot: cornerback, where he played as a freshman in 2012. At the time of his injury last season, Holsey had been playing at boundary safety.
After much discussion, it was decided cornerback was the spot Holsey could benefit the Tigers' the most in the coming season.
"We feel like your boundary corner's got to be a big, physical guy, and that's where he was last year before we moved him," Johnson said. "We had two or three guys playing well there, so we felt like we had the luxury of moving him inside when we lost (Demetruce) McNeal. He had cover skills and corner skills, and we wanted to get him back out there and see if he could be that boundary corner."
When one talks about Holsey, Jermaine Whitehead said, position isn't important.
He's going to make a difference irrespective of where he's at on the field.
"Josh is going to be our X-factor this year in the secondary," said Whitehead, a senior free safety. "He's going to make some plays at corner. He's going to make some plays at safety. He's going to make some plays at dime. He's going to be all over the field. I can't wait to watch. "