Last season, in the middle of making his 22nd consecutive start for Temple University football against South Florida on Nov. 7, a Bulls player landed awkwardly on Vincent Picozzi’s leg, sending him to the ground grabbing his knee in pain.
Just days later, head coach Rod Carey confirmed Picozzi, a graduate student offensive lineman, had suffered a season-ending knee injury. An MRI on his knee revealed he injured both his MCL and PCL ligaments and would need surgery to repair them.
“Probably every offensive lineman’s worst fear is having a knee injury,” Picozzi said.
With the departure of Matt Hennessy, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and Jovahn Fair, who signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent, Picozzi is now Temple’s most experienced starter on the offensive line heading into the 2020 season.
The other two returning starters are junior offensive tackles Adam Klein and Issac Moore. Picozzi made his first career start against East Carolina in 2017 while Moore and Klein were still in high school.
Despite Hennessy and Fair’s departure, Picozzi doesn’t feel any pressure to step up as a leader but has naturally assumed the role, he said.
“It is kind of a little step up,” Picozzi added. “It’s kinda taking over and being the older guy in the room and having to lead by example. So to an extent, it was a little of a step up, but nothing I wasn’t expecting.”
He started rehab six weeks after surgery but was quickly interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Picozzi to start rehab at home via Zoom.
Picozzi was cleared to return to practice during the spring semester and would have participated in spring practices had they not been canceled due to the pandemic, he said. He is back to practice with the team this semester and said his knee feels “real good now.”
Picozzi’s fellow offensive lineman view him as a leader in their group and are happy to have him back in the lineup, Moore said.
“Picozzi is a dog,” Moore added. “He worked so incredibly hard after his injury and seeing him in the training room every day doing things for his knee. Like he is so hungry right now to play football.”
This is Picozzi’s second season working with offensive line coach Joe Tripodi who is also impressed with how hard Picozzi worked to get back from his injury, he said.
“Vince has worked extremely hard to get back to a spot where he can play football at a high level which he’s done for a few years here at Temple and certainly we expect him to continue on that level,” Tripodi added.
In a typical season, this would be Picozzi’s last chance to play with the Owls. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA is allowing an extra year of eligibility for all student-athletes no matter how many games they play in the fall, The Temple News reported.
Picozzi has yet to make a final decision on whether he will come back for the 2021 season but has started to think about it, he said.
“If everything goes well and we have a great season and I have the opportunity to enter the draft, that would be a possibility,” Picozzi said. “But as of right now, I am still keeping my options open and [seeing] what the future holds.”
“I can’t wait to get back to playing football,” he added.