Dillin Rudloff couldn't even move his leg. It was the last straw. He knew something was wrong with him and it needed to be fixed.
But the prospect of back surgery didn't exactly excite him. He felt like he was way too young for something as serious as back surgery.
He also knew it had to be done.
"I had a lot of nerve damage to my leg and I knew I wouldn't have been 100 percent for the team last year," Rudloff said at Lycoming College football media day. "I knew something was wrong and I had to get it checked out."
Rudloff, a defensive end for the Warriors, was coming off a season in which he appeared in all 10 games on the defensive line and started five of them. He was going to be another key cog in a defensive line rotation for the Warriors that was the springboard to the best defense in the MAC and the third-best defense, statistically at least, in the country.
But the wear and tear on his back had just become too much. His mother, Amy, is a nurse and she helped research Rudloff's injury by talking to doctors and finding out who the best doctor was to go to for the procedure.
"It was scary at first just being so young, but in the long run, it was worth it," Rudloff said.
It was a six-month recovery process for Rudloff after surgery. He tried to help at practice with younger players like Braden Zeiner and Zack McMenamin who were seeing significant time on the first team as true freshmen.
It just wasn't the same, though, as actually being out on the field. Now, as a senior, the Athens High School product is ready to get back into the mix. He's listed as a second-team defensive end on the team's depth chart, coincidentally, behind Zeiner.
He's another piece to add to the defensive line mix that already features Roger Jayne, Dwight Hentz and Nate Oropollo, creating one of the best defensive line combinations in the MAC.
"He's working through some rust having missed last year, but he's been in games and he has experience and he's not afraid," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said.
Rudloff's return couldn't come at a better time. The Warriors lost All-American Anthony Marascio to graduation after last season. Marascio was a game-changer who was able to play at tackle and end, but played primarily end after Rudloff was lost for the season.
That opened the door for one of the most dominant seasons in Lycoming history for Marascio. He finished with 59 tackles - which led the Warriors - including 20 for loss totaling 100 yards. He also had eight sacks.
But looking at Rudloff as a replacement for Marascio probably isn't fair. The Warriors haven't had as dominant a defensive player as Marascio since the Frank Girardi era. But what Rudloff can bring to the team is experience. He understands what it takes to make Steve Wiser's defense work.
"You can't compare anyone to Anthony," Clark said. "For Dillin that would be completely unfair, but he's still going to be really good."
"I definitely would never say I'm replacing him at all. But as a whole we're doing really well," Rudloff said. "The big thing is we have a lot of depth this year. We have a lot of people we can throw on the field, which will be awesome. Hopefully that can help us fill in for (Marascio) being gone."
For now, Rudloff is just anxious to get back on the field. He should get his chance Saturday when Lycoming opens the season against Brockport at David Person Field.
"I don't know if I'm better, but I'm more determined and I know what's going on," Rudloff said. "Last year, I took it more of a learning tool with mental reps. So I feel like I can be a better player after that."