On the same October evening that Bryan Gary's 2012 season came to a premature end, he also knocked one of the best quarterbacks in the Presidents' Athletic Conference out of the game.
That was quite fitting.
Gary, a senior strong safety for the Waynesburg University football team, is built more like a linebacker at 6 feet 3 and 205 pounds. He also has the reputation of being one of the most ferocious hitters in the PAC.
Gary showed that ferocity last season in a game at Geneva when his hit sent Zack Hayward to the sidelines for the remainder of the game. Later in the game, however, Gary wound up with a season-ending injury when he sustained torn knee ligaments.
"It was just devastating," said Gary, a Shaler Area High School graduate. "We were having such a great season and it was hard to know I wasn't going to be able to play anymore."
Waynesburg ran its record to 8-0 when it eked out a 21-20 win at Geneva and finished the season 10-2.
Waynesburg tied Washington & Jefferson for the PAC regular-season crown. Washington & Jefferson, however, gained the PAC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs by virtue of beating Waynesburg on the final day of the regular season, and the Yellow Jackets wound up playing Carnegie Mellon in the ECAC Bowl.
Washington & Jefferson beat Waynesburg convincingly, 31-14, so it is hard to say the outcome would have been different if Gary had played.
Waynesburg has to be considered a contender for the conference title this season, however, with a healthy Gary back to lead their secondary this season. Doctors gave him clearance earlier this month, however, to participate in all aspects of practice.
"The rehab went really well," Gary said. "I feel as strong as I ever have. I'm ready to go and looking forward to the season."
Despite missing the final three games in 2012, Gary had a team-high 69 tackles in 2012 and two interceptions. The Yellow Jackets were picked third behind Washington & Jefferson and Thomas More in the preseason poll of conference head coaches, sports information directors and media.
Gary is already one of the most decorated defensive backs in PAC history as he has been a first-team selection on All-Presidents' Athletic Conference team in each of his first three seasons. He has 202 career tackles and six interceptions.
Gary feels his final season could be the best for both him and the team, which has eight returning starters on defense. Waynesburg opens its season on Sept. 1 at Muskingum.
"I think this could be the best defense I have been a part of," he said. "The team chemistry is unreal. I can't wait until I get out on the field with the rest of the guys in a game again. It's going to be special, especially after the way last season ended for me."
The biggest challenge for Gary might be to tone down his aggressiveness as the NCAA has instituted new rules for leading with the head on tackles that could lead to suspensions.
"It's going to be different but I'll have to make the adjustments," Gary said. "I definitely don't want to sit out any games, especially this season."sportscollegedistrict