Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators defensive tackle Brandon Antwine is ready to return to practice after his second serious health problem in two years

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Brandon Antwine, at UF’s spring game, had serious back problems related to sickle cell trait, came back to play seven games in 2008, then tore an ACL against Florida State.


Redshirt junior defensive tackle Brandon Antwine, at UF’s spring game, had serious back problems related to sickle cell trait, came back to play seven games in 2008, then tore an ACL against Florida State.

GAINESVILLE — He's not quite back at full speed and not allowed full contact in practice, but Florida defensive tackle Brandon Antwine is close to rejoining the football team.

To understand why close is just fine with the redshirt junior from Garland, Texas, you have to know where he has been. And understand how hard he has had to fight to stay in the game since he arrived in Gainesville. He has spent two of the past three seasons battling back from a near career-ending back injury and an ACL injury he sustained in November.

"Going through what I've been through, this part is easy," Antwine, 21, said.

In October 2007, Antwine was hospitalized at Shands at the University of Florida with severe back pain that began during a practice.

"It was a bye week after the LSU game," he said. "It was a pretty hard practice, pretty hot practice. It got intense, and my body was kind of dehydrated. I felt my back starting to hurt a little bit, and I talked to the trainers about it.

"After practice, I had them check me out because it was … kind of like a knife cutting me into my lower back."

Through routine testing the Florida medical staff provides athletes, Antwine had been diagnosed with the trait for the blood disease sickle cell. Though medically cleared to play, he remained under close watch of the athletic training staff. "I'm not able to get as much oxygen to my body (during intense exertion)," Antwine said.

Because his back pain caused trainers to be concerned about a potential sickling episode — blockage of the small blood vessels at the muscle level that can cause abnormal blood flow and lead to pain — Antwine was taken to Shands. He had a battery of tests and was diagnosed with lumbar spine myonecrosis, a degenerative loss of muscle in his lower back. He spent three weeks in the hospital battling back spasms, sometimes multiple times a day. His mom, Kathy, never left his side.

He spent months in rehabilitation and physical therapy, and for nearly two months he needed a wheelchair to get around.

"It kind of gets you down, being in a wheelchair," he said. "You've been walking all your life, running. You never thought you'd be immobilized, and it kind of hurt me. It was going from regular life, walking and playing football, which is a game I really love, to being limited in the things I could do and people having to be around me to check on me at all kinds of times."

Because his teammates were still playing their season, his time around them was limited. He watched games on TV or listened on the radio.

But Antwine persevered.

He continued physical therapy through spring 2008, and by early summer, he was cleared for football-related activities. In September, he returned and played in seven games. But in a cruel twist of fate, he tore the ACL in his right knee during the Florida State game. It was his first start.

"I was like, Lord, why me?" he said.

His coaches and teammates felt the same.

"I was praying for him from the sideline hoping it wasn't serious," said Lawrence Marsh, his freshman roommate, who took over Antwine's starting spot. "It just shows you about his background, his family, his mom. He grew up knowing how to overcome adversity.

"I never thought he would go over the deep end. I knew he would fight back and overcome it all."

Coach Urban Meyer said he is impressed with Antwine's ability to continue to overcome adversity.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a guy go through so many injuries," Meyer said. "And they were severe injuries. With that back injury, it's a medical miracle that he's playing. And then he's playing well and he has the knee surgery. But I'll tell you what. To make it through all this, he's one tough cat, and I love him. I really admire him."

Antwine expects to be cleared to practice Saturday. Then he'll have to fight to get back into the defensive rotation. Maybe one day he'll get another starting role.

"It really helps you appreciate the game," Antwine said. "You can have so much, and it can be taken away from you that quick. It was a real humbling experience for me. I consider myself a miracle, really, because I'm able to get back. I really didn't know if I was going to play football again. And for the Lord to bless me with another chance, and now another chance, I'm really grateful."

Antonya English can be reached at or (813) 226-3389. Her blog is at

Florida Gators defensive tackle Brandon Antwine is ready to return to practice after his second serious health problem in two years 08/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 12:36am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    OF/DH Corey Dickerson missed out on a good birthday gift when AL player of the week honors went instead to Detroit's J.D. Martinez. Dickerson hit .385 with five homers, nine RBIs and nine runs; Martinez went .389-4-9-7 and got the nod.

  2. Rays journal: Alex Cobb learning to work with what he has



    If this were 2012 or 2013, even 2014, RHP Alex Cobb would have problems. He would find himself working with only two of his three pitches, with the missing pitch being his trusty changeup.

    Alex Cobb, working mainly with his fastball and curveball, is 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA over his past five starts. The Rays right-hander tries to continue his strong stretch tonight against the Angels.
  3. Rays vs. Angels, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Angels

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater


    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.
  5. Bucs' O.J. Howard ends big day with BP, first pitch for Rays


    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard is known for his athleticism at 6-foot-6, 251-pounds. As an outfielder, he took his Autuaga Academy High School baseball team to the state tournament in Alabama as a junior.

    On Monday, after a little instruction from Steven Souza, Jr., the left-handed hitting Howard started making …