Junior seasons have been brutal on Willie Tucker and his knees.
The Cal Poly football receiver sprained the MCL in his left knee in the second quarter of Saturday’s
24-10 loss to Yale and could miss the rest of his current junior season.
It’s the same injury that struck his right knee in the first game of Tucker’s junior season at El Dorado Hills Oak Ridge High in 2010.
On Saturday, slotback Kristaan Ivory was thrown into Tucker from the side while trying to block a Bulldogs defender. In high school, a player fell onto Tucker’s knee while he was getting up off a pile.
They were different situations, but his knee bent the same angle each time and featured the same signature pop.
The similarities in some ways seem like a curse. In others, not as much.
Tucker does know what to expect from the injury and that he can easily make a full recovery.
“It took me about six games to come back and actually have a couple of series in,” Tucker said of his high school knee sprain. “It’s going to be interesting to see how long I take to get back from this.
“I came back from my right one 100 percent, if not better.”
There’s no question there.
After hurting his knee in high school, Tucker came back but went the entire season without a catch and was considered much more of a baseball prospect after hitting .316 for Oakridge as a sophomore shortstop.
But after quitting baseball and returning to the gridiron, Tucker led the CIF-Sac-Joaquin Section with 55 catches for 1,257 yards and caught 14 touchdowns his senior year. He broke single-season program records for yards and yards per catch (22.9) that had been respectively held by NFL players Austin Collie and Seyi Ajirotutu.
At practice Tuesday morning, Tucker said he had an appointment with team physician Sean Devine to conduct an MRI and learn the severity of the tear.
If the injury does keep him out six weeks, that means Tucker could return for the regular-season finale at Northern Colorado on Nov. 23 and any postseason games the Mustangs (2-3, 1-0 Big Sky Conference) are awarded.
But Cal Poly will certainly find it tougher making the expanded 24-team FCS postseason without him.
Tucker is by far the biggest receiving threat outside. He leads Cal Poly with 18 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns, and most of that came in the first three games against San Diego, Fresno State and Colorado State.
Tucker had a breakout season last year, catching 28 passes for 517 yards and seven touchdowns, all team highs.
This season, junior receiver Chris Nicholls has 10 receptions for 108 yards without a score, and true freshman Cam Akins and sophomore Jordan Hines are the only other players with catches from the receiver position.
Akins has six receptions for 62 yards and had a 73-yard touchdown called back when he lined up incorrectly against Yale. Hines has two catches for 10 yards.
Tucker was suspected to have torn cartilage in his left knee in the preseason and said he received a cortisone shot to ease the pain of that injury. He said the previous condition did not facilitate Saturday’s knee sprain, however.
“It was just pure physical unfortunate events,” Tucker said. “Nothing could have prevented that. My right knee is 100 percent healthy. If that happened, it would have done the same thing.”