One play, and Malique Micenheimer knew it was over. His senior season, the culmination of four years of sweat and work and sacrifice, ended with a crushing shoulder injury in Fresno State’s third game of the 2014 season, a loss to Nebraska.
He was off to a solid start, had caught six passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in the first two games, was playing for a team that had won back-to-back Mountain West Conference championship rings and had a realistic shot at a third, and then it was over. Just like that.
“I knew right when it happened,” he said.
But after a career that included a couple of do-overs, coming in as a freshman as an inside linebacker and moving to fullback to fill a void, then moving back to linebacker and then to running back again to aid a depleted offense the following season, Micenheimer is getting a second chance at that senior season.
This is a blessing. I just have to take advantage of it.
Fresno State running back Malique Micenheimer on second chance at a senior season
Having been granted a medical hardship waiver, the senior from Stockton is intent on helping to write a different ending to his career than a frustrating up-and-down 2014 season in which the Bulldogs were thumped by USC, Utah and Nebraska at the start of the season, recovered to make it back to the conference championship game, but lost there to Boise State.
Then, lost to Rice in the Hawaii Bowl to finish a disappointing 6-8 ... a record that shows how close and how far the Bulldogs were to hitting their goals.
“With the way the season ended last year, a lot of those guys that I came in with, the way they went out, I want to leave a bigger impact for the senior class and even for the young guys with my leadership and my play on the field,” Micenheimer said.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are or how young you are, where you are on the depth chart, take advantage of your role and do whatever you can to make this team win.”
And he is, as expected, attacking it in fall camp.
“I think it’s kind of a gross comparison, but when you’re on that death bed and you revive … I mean, he was done last year until we got the extra year,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. “You relish things a little more. Things you maybe were taking for granted earlier, you’re taking them more seriously. I think he’s doing that.”
On the field, Micenheimer will back up senior Marteze Waller, who last season churned out 1,368 rushing yards at a healthy 6.1 yards per play with 11 touchdowns, and gives the Bulldogs options to employ two-back sets, as a short-yardage back and as a receiver out of the backfield.
He can be a valuable piece to an offense that is expected to be more explosive than a year ago with dynamic weapons in the backfield and at the inside and outside receiver positions, along with running back Dustin Garrison, a graduate transfer from West Virginia.
The surgically repaired shoulder feels solid, no problems.
“It feels good,” he said. “We haven’t gone full live yet, but in thud I’ve taken some pretty good hits and I haven’t had any pain.”
He is ready to go, and to make a mark there.
And he is being counted on off the field, as well, with his leadership of a young group. Of the 105 players in fall camp, 68 of them are freshmen and sophomores.
“He’s an extremely young man that I think has a lot of respect on the football team just based on his longevity and the things that he does,” said Joe Wade, who coached the Bulldogs’ running backs before moving this season to work with the outside receivers. “I think it really hurt us last year when he got hurt, but I guess it’s a blessing in disguise because now we have him for this year.
“I’m sure at the time it was hard to go through the whole season and not be able to play. But I think he realizes, all of us when we played, when you actually get to that last year, you’re like, ‘Wow, this is it.’
“He was already in that, and then he got injured and so at this point I’m sure he’s thinking, ‘Hey, another opportunity,’ which none of us are guaranteed so I think he’s very positive about the opportunity. Sometimes things happen for a reason. Maybe he was meant to be on this team for a specific reason.”
Micenheimer is intent on finding it, on the field as well as in the meeting room and locker room.
“Not playing was hard for me,” Micenheimer said. “But going to that Mountain West Championship game and just sitting there … taking that loss … that was definitely hard.
“This is a blessing. I just have to take advantage of it.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
’Dogs in camp
Camp highlights leading up to the Sept. 3 season opener against Abilene Christian at Bulldog Stadium:
- Monday: Practice No. 5 (first in full pads)
- Thursday, Aug. 13: Practice No. 10, 6-8 p.m. (scrimmage No. 1; only practice open to the public)
- Thursday, Aug. 20: Practice No. 18 (scrimmage No. 2)
- Monday, Aug. 24: Practice No. 21 (scrimmage No. 3)
- Wednesday, Sept. 2: Practice No. 29 (pregame walkthrough)