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SALT LAKE CITY — Let’s go back to Oct. 8, 2016. Utah running back Armand Shyne helped lead the Utes to a 36-23 victory over the University of Arizona. Shyne ran for 101 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.
Fast forward a year and a half: Shyne has not played in a game since.
During the victory over Arizona, Shyne’s season came to an abrupt halt as he tore his ACL. This was poor timing for Shyne, who was having his best stretch of football for the Utes and was solidifying himself as the No. 1 option at running back.
“He’s a really good running back, obviously two years ago he was going to be our No. 1 guy before he got hurt,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham.
After the injury, Shyne spent months rehabbing his leg in an attempt to get back to where he was before. After all of the rehab and hard work, Shyne was finally back and ready to go for the 2017 season.
Everything seemed to be back in place for Shyne when he suffered another serious injury, this time to his left arm. The injury occurred during an 11-on-11 team period setting during fall camp. Whittingham described the injury as a “fluke thing.”
The fluke injury turned out to be much more substantial than anyone had initially anticipated and caused Shyne to miss all of the 2017 season. Rather than being able to help the Utes get wins in the Pac-12, Shyne had to spend the next several months in the rehabilitation process.
Now, after all of this adversity, Shyne is back, healthy and ready to go.
“Armand is on his way. In terms of being healthy, he’s 100 percent,” said Ute running backs coach Kiel McDonald. “Just knocking the rust off, getting better every day, so he’s going in the right direction.”
While Shyne is done with rehab, he is still working to get completely back to where he was.
“I feel straight, I feel straight, I’m a little timid, when it comes to hitting and all that, and grabbing my arm and all that, but I’ll be over that,” Shyne said.
“He’s made a lot of progress; I’ve sensed that he’s still not 100 percent confident in that he’s all the way back. Until he gets hit a little bit, I think that will be the case, but physically he looks very good,” Whittingham said.
Along with becoming physically right, becoming mentally right is another major step in the injury recovery process.
“I think it’s just a matter of him gaining confidence from a mental standpoint and sometimes that’s even more important than the physical part of it, just mentally knowing you’re right and withstand the hits, and good to go,” Whittingham said.
Mental toughness is something that is not foreign to Shyne, as he maintained a unique and positive perspective through his injuries.
“I never thought why me,” Shyne said. “I kind of thought like it was just meant for me to happen, that I’d have to go through extra things to get to where I want to get.”
Asked why he didn't let his injuries get him down, Shyne credited his faith in God. "To be honest with you, I just kept my faith the whole time.”
Along with his faith, his coaches helped him remain positive through the process.
“The coaches kept me and my mind straight, made sure I didn’t get too down about it,” said Shyne.
His mental fortitude and his ability to get right back in the thick of things after the injuries has impressed McDonald.
“I think at the end of the day, you’re talking about mental toughness,” McDonald said. “You know, for somebody to have two season-ending surgeries, then to come back and actually looking and making the cuts, and you know having the intensity in practices that he’s having is pretty nice to see, I think that just kind of speaks to his will a little bit.”
Zack Moss is expected to be the lead running back, but after that nothing is decided. So Shyne will need to use spring ball to continue to build his confidence and get back in the rotation.
“Right now, we’re getting everybody some reps. Spring ball we want to see everybody move around,” McDonald said. “Some of these young guys have gotten better, older guys have gotten better, so we want to give everybody an opportunity, see what they got.”
Shyne will have to battle to get where he wants to be in the rotation, but he has a lot of time to do so, as the season doesn’t kick off until Aug. 30.
One thing for sure, the Utes are definitely stronger at the running back position and are glad to have Shyne back.