Josh Pinkard's learned the types of lessons only disappointment can provide.
In 2006, USC head coach Pete Carroll called him the Trojans' best all-around player, but instead of riding that momentum into a legendary college career, he was forced to watch.
Sidelined with a right knee injury one game into his junior season, Pinkard saw Taylor Mays take over and excel at free safety.
And before he got a chance to a try and win his job back in 2007, Pinkard again suffered a knee injury — this time tearing ligaments in his left knee.
Now in his final year of eligibility, Pinkard's got a new position, and he's feeling good — despite the tough hands he's been dealt the past two seasons.
"Everything's feeling wonderful," he said.
Pinkard, Kevin Thomas (also returning from injury) and Shareece Wright are all competing for the starting cornerback job opposite Cary Harris.
Pinkard said the adjustment from safety to corner isn't too difficult.
"Right now, they have me listed at corner. That's what I'm planning on doing," Pinkard said. "There's no real difference in how you prepare for the two. Come game time, you don't prepare for the position; you prepare for the opponent and playing the game."
Pinkard credits the strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle's summer workouts for getting him back in game shape.
"Going through all of Coach Carlisle's workouts have me convinced I'm in shape," he said. "The rehab process is going well. Putting those two aspects together has been good for me.
Close to 100 percent, Pinkard said the rehab has actually been easier the second time around.
"It's not been an uphill battle or anything. It's the same thing I did before. There's not too much to it," Pinkard said. "It's a mental challenge, but I've been there before. Going through it once was tough, but the second time hasn't been as hard."
It's also been easy because Pinkard's been motivated to get back on the field with a secondary that's spent plenty of time together.
"Everybody's been playing really well. We really do feel like a family," he said. "We've all been here so long. I think that's what's going to take us to the top. From being together for so long, we all know where we're each going to be. We all can count on one another.
"That's what it's all about."
And while Carroll might not still consider Pinkard the team's best all-around talent, there's little doubt in his teammates' minds concerning the value of having him back on the field.
"He adds a lot. It's been two years. We missed his leadership," Wright said. "Having him out there, it's been a little bit of an inspiration. That had to be tough. I want to see him do well.
"I know he struggled the past few years, and I'm just so happy to see him out here with us."
And Pinkard's happy to be out there.
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