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Lobo Drennan making the comeback from serious injury

Lobo wide receiver Q’ Drennan acknowledges fans’ applause as he’s carted off the field after sustaining an injury at the end of a 40-yard pass reception in the 2018 season opener. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Q’ Drennan unleashed a loud shout after he came down with the football for a 40-yard reception, the first completion of the 2018 season for the University of New Mexico.

Because of the way Drennan’s hip contorted and crumpled as he hit the turf, many would think he was yelling in pain.

But he was actually screaming in anger.

Drennan dislocated his hip, and the excitement of a promising season as a wide receiver for the Lobos quickly vanished.

“I was just really mad because I knew as soon as it happened I was done for the year, if not more than that,” Drennan said. “I’m not, thankfully.”

Drennan’s back.

He’s not participating fully during spring practices, but just running through drills with the Lobos has shown how far he has come since Sept. 1. Along the way, he has experienced myriad emotions and some dark moments. His journey isn’t near completion. It almost feels like it’s starting over.

Would you believe he’s stronger than ever?

Lobo football player Q’ Drennan

“I’m stronger now than what I was before the injury, which is kind of ridiculous to me,” said Drennan, who is 22 and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. “Just in my mind, I’m like, ‘What the?'”

Drennan credits the UNM strength staff for his physical rehabilitation, for staying on him to regain strength in his hip through several training methods, including in the pool.

He said he was able to conquer the emotional challenges he encountered because of his 2-year-old daughter, Okhelani. Drennan’s girlfriend, Jazmin Bradley, and their daughter moved to Albuquerque from El Paso to be with him and support him last season.

“She prevented me from going off the deep end and totally just losing my drive and everything,” Drennan said of Okhelani. “She pretty much saved me from not wanting to do this anymore. I didn’t know if I would come back. Would I be the same? It was just a bunch of different, really deep thoughts. She kind of just makes you forget everything and just be there.”

Drennan dealt with bouts of anxiety and battled doubts of returning to the game. Yet, he discovered how much he loved football when it was taken from him.

He was thankful that the hip dislocation was suffered in such a way that it wasn’t career-ending, as it was for Bo Jackson. But he knew there was a lot of work to be done to return to the Lobos.

Drennan, from El Paso, showed his love for football and the Lobos last season when he became basically a player-coach. He wore a headset during games and advised teammates what he saw they could do to improve. At times, he was intense.

“He’s out there coaching those wide receivers like he’s playing,” Lobos coach Bob Davie said. “We had to get him back out of the way to let the players play.”

Coaching might be in Drennan’s future, but he’s not totally sure. In December, he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in intercultural communications, and he’s on schedule to earn a master’s degree in educational psychology this December.

“I’ve seen him come a long way,” said Davie, who hopes Drennan can be a difference-maker this season.

Davie and UNM receivers coach Scott Baumgartner believe Drennan has the potential. Baumgartner says the 6-foot-2, 194-pound Drennan has the type of athleticism that makes him capable of playing at quarterback. He flashed big-play ability in 2016 and ’17 with 20 catches for 466 yards and three TDs when the Lobos were in the triple option.

“He’s one of the best athletes on our football team,” Baumgartner said.

Drennan hasn’t stopped coaching. Before spring practices began, he encouraged teammates to cherish football as much as they can. He told them to avoid needing something like an injury to make them realize how much they love the game because it’s gone.

TRANSFER PORTAL: Stephen Ruiz, a redshirt freshman kicker from Naperville, Ill., announced on Twitter Monday that he has entered the transfer portal and intends to leave UNM. Last season, Andrew Shelley (Eldorado) won the place-kicking battle and held on to the job the entire season.