Oregon State linebacker Michael Doctor returned to the field this spring after sitting out the 2013 season with a hairline fracture in his ankle. His return makes the linebackers one of the deepest position groups not only for Oregon State, but also for the entire conference. He joins fellow seniors Jabral Johnson and D.J. Alexander as well as an impressive group of youngsters -- sophomores Darrell Songy and Rommel Mageo -- in the Oregon State linebackers room.
We didn’t get a chance to catch up with Doctor this spring, so we made sure to check in with him this summer to discuss his return, the linebackers and being named a team captain.
What was it like getting back out on the field for spring ball?
Michael Doctor: It was kind of a surreal feeling. I was very excited to get back out there and everything. It felt good to be back out there with the guys running around. You lose that edge when you [have to sit out] a few months like I did. It makes you miss it that much more. It humbles you to want to get back out there and prove yourself.
After sitting out for that long, do you now appreciate the sprints and conditioning that much more?
MD: I’ve always loved every aspect of the game. But being out for so long and having an injury, it does make you miss that part of the game -- the hard parts, the conditioning, going out there when it’s 100 degrees on the turf. It makes you miss those parts of the game when you’re out for so long.
How does sitting out like that affect your mindset? Do you have to constantly remind yourself to just play like you did play instead of trying to win the spot on every single down?
MD: You try to not think about the injury, just go out there and do what I could do. I knew what type of player I was before and I know what kind of player I can become, and that’s what I’m striving to be. Sitting out made me be able to take a coach’s perspective on the game. That made me a smarter player. So I knew if I wasn’t as fast coming off the ankle injury, I’d be that much smarter to recognize a formation or set to know what play they’d run.
Your time out gave other linebackers a chance to get significant reps. How does that, along with your return, help the Oregon State defense?
MD: The more experience, the better the players are going to be. With more experience comes more chemistry. We can go out there, put my experience with all the other guys who are returning from this past year. The more experience, it’s better for the chemistry and better for the team. We can just use that as fuel to lead this defense.
You were also named a captain this spring. What was your reaction?
MD: It was a good feeling. It was a huge honor to be named a captain for this team. It’s a bunch of great guys. I was honored that I was chosen by those teammates. I know I wasn’t playing last fall, but it still felt great to go out there and lead the team, make sure everyone knew what they were doing on the defensive side.
Did sitting out a season change your leadership style?
MD: Yes. It gives you a chance to look at the game from a coach’s perspective; that makes you a better leader. You can see what the coaches are seeing out there. And if you can have a coach’s eyes out there, it makes you that much better and smarter of a player. As last season progressed, I started recognizing certain route combinations that teams were running. That helped me to help coach the guys who were actually out there.