Tennessee center Cooper Mays has been down this road before. It isn’t a fun path to traverse.
Mays isn’t expected to play this week against Virginia after undergoing a medical procedure early in preseason camp. The senior has been sidelined for nearly three weeks. Unfortunately, Mays knows the feeling. He missed several games in 2021 as a sophomore with various ailments. There were hurdles to overcome at that time that had nothing to do with Mays’ physical limitations.
“When I was out there my sophomore year, I was banged up and that messed with my confidence a lot because I felt like I wasn’t the same player that I was before, so I think just being able to have success out there and have prolonged success and just doing it, the more you do it, it just becomes (easier),” Mays said during The Vol Report. “Once you figure it out, it’s just a football game at the end of the day and you’re going out there to play hard and just follow your rules. That’s all it is.”
It would be understandable if Mays is upset about missing the first game of his senior season and, possibly, missing much more time to begin what was supposed to be his final campaign as a Vol. However Mays is keeping his chin up.
“Spirits are good,” Mays said. “Spirits are always going to be decent. Good around here. I don’t really get too down on anything, especially stuff that’s not really in my control. I try to keep a level head and an even-keel mindset, but the biggest challenge really is just not being able to go through the struggle. I take a lot of pride in being out there and being in the middle of the fight with my guys. So anytime you can’t get into the fight with them and help the cause, it it kind of stings a little bit, but it is what it is.”
It’s unclear when Mays, who has another year of eligibility remaining, will return. However, after being forced back into the lineup in 2021 when he wasn’t 100-percent, one thing is certain.
“I know that when I come back, I’ll be full strength,” Mays said. “So kind of one of those things that I feel like I’ll be able to take care of and come back just as strong, if not stronger.”
Mays declined to disclose his injury publicly but pointed out that it isn’t the kind of injury that will linger throughout the season like the ones he dealt with in 2021. Still, this isn’t the trip Mays had planned.