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QB David Ash returns for Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- David Ash is back, and that was always his plan.

The Texas Longhorns starting quarterback returned to the practice field Monday for the start of fall practices and is healthy again after enduring a concussion that cost him the 2013 season and a broken foot that sidelined him this spring.

In his first interview since last September, Ash said he never considered ending his playing career despite his bout with post-concussion symptoms. He's trying to move on and is ready to start over.

"It's just really exciting. I'm so thankful I get to do this," Ash said. "Nothing is guaranteed, I've for sure learned that, and I just feel so blessed to get another opportunity to play this game."

The fourth-year junior suffered a concussion in a loss last season at BYU, and ever since that Sept. 7 injury, he's been struggling to get back. He tried to come back and earned the start two weeks later against Kansas State, but had to leave the game at halftime due to recurring symptoms and never played again in 2013.

The concussion left Ash not only sidelined, but also unable to attend several Texas games and even, for a brief period of time, his classes. He received a medical redshirt for sitting out and will have two seasons left to make up for the time lost.

Ash declined to go into detail on what he went through last season while recovering. Now that he's healed, that's the last thing he wants to talk about these days.

"It is what it is. It happened. I'm better now," Ash said. "As you can see, I'm as sharp as a tack. So it's all good. That's over and done with and we're moving on to the future."

But Ash also recognized that, throughout his struggles to recover last fall, many wondered if he'd ever play again and whether it was wise for him to risk another concussion and potential long-term damage.

Ash admits that idea briefly crossed his mind, but Texas doctors and trainers reassured him repeatedly that he would be able to play again. That was his expectation all along.

"A lot of people told me, 'You need to give it up, you need to quit.' Honestly, I never really thought about it," Ash said. "In my mind, I always knew I was going to play."

He had several conversations with his parents, Stephen and Lynn Ash, about his health and his future. They agreed to support him no matter what he decided, and Ash made it clear from the start he wasn't done.

His comeback was halted in April, midway through spring ball, when he suffered a fracture in his left foot that kept him in a boot for a portion of the summer. Texas doctors cleared Ash for full participation in practice two weeks ago.

"Oh man, I thought I was off the struggle bus, but I hopped right back on for a little bit," Ash joked about the foot injury. "You get off the struggle bus eventually, and I'm off now and getting ready."

Charlie Strong named Ash his starting quarterback at Big 12 media days, citing his experience and performance in the spring. Ash enters his junior year with 21 career starts, 4,372 passing yards, 34 total TDs and 18 interceptions.

"I told him the only thing I need him to do is manage the offense," Strong said. "I don't need you to be a great player; just play within yourself."

Strong also told Ash to play smarter this fall. He sat down with his quarterback this summer and reviewed film of Ash putting himself in harm's way by trying to run over defenders.

Strong paused the tape after a few hits and had to ask: "What are you trying to prove?" After the rough year Ash has overcome, he at least has a healthier appreciation for self-preservation.

"He's told me I've got to get down, and he's right," Ash said. "I'm not going to take any more hits that aren't necessary."