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October 14, 2005

Moss finally healthy, contributing for Gators

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Defensive end Jarvis Moss spent the past three years wondering what was wrong with his body.

All he knew was he had a wrenching pain in his lower abdomen that caused sleepless nights and made it nearly impossible to work out or play football. Trainers and doctors were stumped, too. One even told Moss he might be imagining the whole thing because tests turned up nothing.

Moss considered quitting football and seeking a medical hardship that would allow him to stay on scholarship.

"I was down," he said. "I was tired of my body hurting. It was to the point where it wasn't really worth it to me."

But coach Urban Meyer convinced Moss to stick it out and vowed to do everything he could to get Moss healthy. After several months of tests, doctors determined that Moss had a nasty infection on his pelvic bone and put him on six weeks of antibiotics.

Moss has since recovered and become a factor for the 11th-ranked Gators (5-1, 3-1 SEC), who play at No. 10 LSU (3-1, 2-1) on Saturday. Moss has five tackles and a sack in the last three games while helping fill in for injured starter Ray McDonald.

"I'm proud of him," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. "It's kind of like a miracle. He was an inch away from being nobody."

The pain began during Moss' senior season in high school and quickly threatened his football career.

"When I tried to train and run, it made it worse," said Moss, a third-year sophomore from Denton, Texas. "Anytime I tried to do anything active, it really bothered me a lot."

More disconcerting was that initial tests revealed nothing wrong.

"It was a puzzle," Moss said. "It was confusing to everybody because nobody had any idea what was going on."

Florida's former coaching staff was ready to give up on Moss after two years. A Parade All-American, he played in the season opener as a freshman in 2003 and made five tackles. But the pain returned. He missed the rest of the year trying to figure out what was wrong.

He tried to play again in the opener last year, but the problem flared up and he shut down for the rest of the season.

Just when Moss was ready to call it quits for good, he had a meeting with Meyer in February that changed everything.

"I looked at him and he looked awful," Meyer said. "He was crying and he said, `There's something wrong with me."'

Said Moss: "I sat down with him and we talked a lot. It was a real heart-to-heart talk."

Meyer promised to try to help Moss get healthy.

"The coaching staff and strength staff, we went hard after Jarvis," Meyer said. "I'm glad we did that. Everyone was saying, `You're OK, you're OK.' We kept pushing it and pushing it. Our medical staff did a marvelous job."

Over the next several months, doctors ran a battery of tests on Moss but found nothing. Moss, meanwhile, insisted something was wrong. He knew it, especially every time he stepped on a scale.

"It said 217 pounds," Moss said. "I was shocked. I knew something was really going on inside my body."

Doctors finally figured out what, but only after a biopsy in June revealed the infection on his pelvic bone. They have since told Moss it probably was caused by a cortisone shot he received for an injury in high school; the needle likely pushed germs from his skin deep into his body.

"It was a relief just to know what was causing the pain," Moss said. "I wanted to do whatever it took to keep playing and the doctors came up with a way to treat it."

Moss received intravenous antibiotics for the next six weeks, walking around campus, practice and home with an IV attached to his left arm. He started feeling better almost immediately.

Soon, he was running and lifting and practicing again. He's up to 245 pounds now, and more importantly for Moss, he is finally able to contribute for the Gators.

"I'm happy with the way Coach Meyer and his staff came in and took the initiative to make me better," Moss said. "He isn't the type just to worry about you as a football player. He cares about players as individuals. He wants a family environment around here where we take care of each other.

"I received help from him and now I'm enjoying every day. I love football. I always have. It's the love of my life. It's good to be playing, contributing and having fun. I'm blessed and happy."

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