CINCINNATI (AP) - Dressed in his red No. 4 jersey, Munchie Legaux stood behind the line of scrimmage with a football gripped by his back shoulder, as though he was going to throw a pass during a full-speed drill.
He's not ready for that yet. Cincinnati's senior quarterback is still months away from getting cleared for full contact following a gruesome injury to his left knee. But it was enough for him just to be on the field Thursday for a spring practice.
''The biggest way the injury has changed me is I never take anything for granted,'' Legaux said. ''I'm humble and thankful that I'm here today walking, talking, breathing, smiling.''
The prep star from Louisiana is getting a chance to prolong his football career. The NCAA granted him an extra season of eligibility after his senior year was cut short.
Legaux was hit on the left leg as he threw a pass during the second game of last season in Illinois. The leg bowed, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and the posterior cruciate ligament. He also tore cartilage.
Legaux knew right away it could be a career-ending injury.
''On my way to the hospital in the ambulance, I was asking the trainers: Is my career over? Would I play again? Did we win? Did he catch the ball on that play?'' Legaux said.
The Bearcats lost the game 45-17. Doctors fixed the knee and gave him a 50-50 chance of playing. Legaux hadn't taken a redshirt season, so last month the NCAA granted him another one.
Legaux can throw the ball - he made some passes during a scaled-back drill on Thursday - but can't run. He wears a brace on the knee and has a limp when he jogs. It's still uncertain whether the knee will heal enough to let him play.
''Thank goodness the NCAA gave him another year,'' coach Tommy Tuberville said. ''He's making the most of it. Now whether he can do it, I don't know. He's got about four or five months to continue to rehab, but we'll see how far along he gets.''
Legaux has been through a lot at Cincinnati. He was a starter as a junior under Butch Jones, who benched him midway through the season only three days after saying he was sticking with him. Legaux had thrown five interceptions in two games, including one in an overtime loss to Louisville.
Senior Brendon Kay was in line to start last season, but hurt his shoulder during fall workouts. Legaux took over and got hurt in the second game.
''I've had a lot happen to me,'' Legaux said. ''I tell people I've done it all my four years here. I've filled in for a guy, I've started, I've gotten benched, I've thrown the game-winning touchdown, I've thrown the interception at the end of the game.''
Legaux has played in 31 games during his four-year career, completing 52 percent of his passes for 2,847 yards with 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
With Legaux hurt and Kay leaving after graduation, the Bearcats have been getting ready to move on at quarterback. Gunner Kiel, who sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame, and junior college transfer Jarred Evans are set to compete for the starting job.
Even if Legaux manages to make a full recovery, he's not guaranteed of getting the job.
''If I'm not on the field, I'll be the No. 1 leader in the locker room and on the sideline,'' said Legaux, who is majoring in organizational leadership. ''If I do play, I'll take this year as another opportunity. No matter what the results, I got a chance to come out and play. I don't care if it's one snap in a season or the whole season
''I'm just going to soak it in and take it day by day.''
Legaux still hopes to have a chance to play football beyond college. How the knee heals will decide his course.
''All the players recognize what a guy like that has to go through when he has a terrible knee injury,'' Tuberville said. ''Most of the fans see the injury and days and months go by, but they don't see that he's in the trainer's room every morning at 6 o'clock going through a couple hours of rehab.
''To come this far and be back on the field throwing the football - it's a miracle for him.''
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