LSU spring football 2021

LSU quarterback Myles Brennan (right) hands the football off during the Tigers' first practice of spring football on March 16, 2021.

Imagine a day, years from now, in which an athlete suffers an injury that tears abdominal muscles and ligaments and requires surgery.

The athlete visits the doctor's office and sits on the examination chair. The doctor walks up and says, "you're going to need Myles Brennan surgery."

That hypothetical was almost possible. A brand new surgery was almost named after LSU's quarterback, whose season-ending abdominal injury against Missouri on Oct. 10 last season was so rare that it confounded every specialist he saw.

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Remember the hit?

On LSU's second drive of the game, Brennan threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Terrace Marshall. Brennan was flushed out of the pocket toward the right sideline, and, as he released the throw, blitzing Missouri safety Martez Manuel drove Brennan to the ground.

Brennan told reporters Thursday, his first interview since the injury, that he remembers his right knee sticking to the turf, then Manuel's body weight driving one half his body one way and the other half another. The pressure tore the muscle off his pelvic bone and his hip.

"I kind of felt everything tear apart at that point," Brennan said.

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Still, through adrenaline and will, Brennan finished the entire game, completing 29 of 48 passes for 430 yards and four touchdowns, including a 75-yard strike to Marshall.

The stellar performance added to the mystery at the time. How could someone play so well, then never play another down? But Brennan said he could "obviously" feel something was wrong, and, indeed, MRIs later revealed he'd torn a few muscles and ligaments.

No one had ever seen an injury like it, Brennan said, and therefore no one knew exactly how to proceed with treatment. LSU sent copies of his MRI to NFL and MLB franchises, golf and tennis trainers. His father, Owen, said LSU also brought in opinions from NBA and NHL experts.

"No exaggeration," Owen said. "At least five, that I can remember, national surgeons, orthopedic surgeons said that Myles has made medical history."

With no case histories to provide a path to recovery, Brennan said the doctor he visited in Baton Rouge told him that he had two options: (1) let the injury heal on its own, or (2) undergo a surgery that would be the first of its kind.

"Personally, I've never done surgery on this," Brennan said the doctor told him. "So, we'd be naming the surgery after you if you wanted to."

Ultimately, Brennan didn't have the surgery. It seemed like a major risk, one he wanted to avoid by trying to let it heal on its own first.

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"I didn’t really feel that comfortable with that," Brennan said. "So I was gonna give my body healing on its own the time, and obviously if worse came to worst, I would’ve gone the surgical route. But it just needed time. It was very frustrating because it was a very, very, very slow healing process.”

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Very slow, indeed.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior didn't return for the rest of the season. Two true freshmen, TJ Finley and Max Johnson, took turns leading the offense for the rest of LSU's 5-5 campaign.

Johnson led LSU to dramatic comeback victories in the team's final games against Florida and Ole Miss, and LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Johnson's 2-0 record earned him the first snaps of spring practice to kick off a four-man quarterback battle that includes four-star freshman Garrett Nussmeier.

But Orgeron never did fully rule Brennan out during the season. The injury was so uncommon, the head coach gave room for a "miraculous" recovery while ultimately saying Brennan likely was not returning in 2020.

Meanwhile, Brennan did rehabilitation exercises every day. The injury recovered at 5% increments, he said. Some days, he could throw a football. Other days, it felt his body took a backward step.

After the season, Brennan and LSU's sports medicine staff made the decision to give his body a three-week break from exercises. If the injury didn't heal after that time, they'd have to try something else.

January arrived. Pain left. Brennan continued to train during LSU's "Fourth Quarter" offseason workout program, in which Orgeron said Brennan graded "elite" in at least three of the four workouts.

That was the time when Brennan said he really felt like himself. The hardest thing during the injury was not being with the team in practices, in workouts, in games. Those were supposed to be the moments he'd remember the most.

Spring football practice began Tuesday, and Brennan is practicing without limitations. Orgeron says he looks fully healthy, and Brennan says he's playing confident in his body and is moving beyond the injury.

So, although Brennan won't go down in medicinal history along with Tommy John and Jacques Lisfranc, he can have comfort in knowing he made the right choice and can proceed in making a name for himself in the way he intended: on the field.

"I feel 100% now," Brennan said. "I feel strong. I feel healthy. I'm ready to go."

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Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.