Kentavious Preston #55 of the Southern University Jaguars waits on the field in the first half of their game against the Prairie View Am Panthers at Panther Stadium at Blackshear Field on November 12, 2016 in Prairie View, Texas. *** Local Caption *** Kentavious Preston ORG XMIT: 123456789

Scott Halleran

Southern linebacker Kentavious Preston pops a number of pain pills.

“But that doesn’t really do much,” he said.

Preston, bouncing between multiple linebacker spots in the heart of Southern’s defense, tore his left shoulder labrum last spring, an injury usually requiring surgery to be fully repaired.

Preston, a four-year senior with a shoulder still physically connected to the rest of him, took the all-natural route — sometimes with those pregame pain relievers — instead of a surgical procedure to play this season, his final year as a Jaguar.

“The healing without surgery actually went pretty well,” Preston said, somewhat jokingly. “There was no pain since about a month after I tore it. When I tore it, I really didn’t feel anything. I had all my flexibility.

“I really think the mindset of the seniors is, ‘This is it. If it’s attached, then I’ve got to be able to have the mindset that I believe I can go,’ ” coach Dawson Odums said. “When you’re a senior playing this game, and you get this close to the finish line, it’s hard for anything to stop you from crossing.”

But then there was Southern’s 48-31 loss at Alcorn State on Sept. 23, which deepened Preston’s concern with that nagging, unhealed shoulder.

Attempting to add to his team-high 37 tackles this season, an Alcorn tailback drug and over-extended Preston’s fragile shoulder a bit too far backward, forcing Preston to miss a hefty portion of the remaining second half.

Preston, who began playing for Southern's defense four years ago as a freshman, was sidelined for the Jaguars' win against Fort Valley State on Sept. 30 to nurse the shoulder that still "nags" him.

“It was really killing me that week,” he said.

But pain be ignored, Preston’s playing now at the center of Southern's defense.

There’s no other option. 

“You’ve just got to have the mindset that, ‘I’m not going to be limited to this shoulder injury,’ " Preston said he tells himself. "I know my team needs me.

“It’s still hurting and still causing problems, but at this point there’s nothing I can do about it except block it out.”

Southern’s defense held Alabama A&M to 52 yards rushing and Jackson State to 66 yards rushing in the past two weeks with Preston playing both inside linebackers slots.

Using their recent sub-100-yard rushing games as an example, Preston said the Jaguars defense has steadily become more formidable this season.

“It’s very good,” Preston said. “We know if we can hold teams, if we can stop their rushing attack, we know that we have a pretty good secondary, so it’s going to force teams to pass the ball. And if we can get stops in the passing game, you’re basically playing good defense on all cylinders.”

Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Southern’s next opponent at 4 p.m. Saturday, has averaged 124.3 rushing yards per game this season.

For the Jaguars defense to post a third-straight game of holding an offense to fewer than 70 yards rushing, they’ll need Preston again.

“He’s always been banged up,” said defensive end Aaron Tiller. “He just knows that the season’s coming to an end. He knows it’s either strap it up or quit playing, and he ain’t going to quit playing for nobody.”