Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/21/13
Angry red lines course the flesh over and around Ben Ijalana’s oft-ravaged left knee. “Beauty marks,” he calls the scars that trace his professional football career: From hurt to hurt, disappointment to disappointment, from where he has been to where he plants and pushes on today. What’s next is what everyone wonders. “We’re eager to see that. I’m eager to see that,” Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Nobody really knows. He’s so much stronger; so much better an athlete now. I’m excited to see what he can do,” Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. So is Ijalana (EYE-juh-lah-na), one of an intriguing range of possibilities afforded by a horde of reinforcements on the Colts’ offensive line. “It’s show time,” the third-year tackle said, seated in the kitchen of his handsomely appointed 2,200-square-foot Downtown condo. “I’m the great mystery. I want to see for myself.” Showtime is training camp, which opens Saturday when the Colts report to Anderson University. Ijalana tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the first step of the first drill of 2012 training camp. There was no contact, no reason, no explanation. Worse, it was the same ligament in the same knee he tore during the fourth game of his rookie season, at Tampa Bay. He was taking his pass set on that play. A defender’s leg hooked his. The knee buckled. The ligament popped. Perhaps no one has suffered more to play less. There was joy in the Ijalana home the evening the Colts traded up four spots to take him 49th in the 2011 draft. It was the highest a Villanova player had gone since Pro Football Hall of Fame end Howie Long went 48th to Oakland in 1981. Ijalana was going to be a Colt. He was going to play with Peyton Manning. He was going to win Super Bowl rings. “Surreal” is Ijalana’s choice of terms to describe the flow of circumstances that first sidelined Manning, then sent him to Denver while Ijalana was undergoing surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia, then a knee reconstruction, procedures to repair torn labrums in both hips, then the second knee reconstruction.
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