Raymond Maples was poised at the start of the season to etch his name in the Army record books again before departing West Point.
Instead, he's gone from backfield threat in Army's triple option to spectator as the final game of his senior season looms. It's the biggest game of his college career — against archrival Navy — and he'll have to watch from the sidelines on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in his hometown of Philadelphia, wondering what might have been.
"It's been humbling," said Maples, who suffered a rare tendon avulsion in his right leg against Stanford in the third game of the season and has been out of the lineup since. "You never anticipate getting hurt, especially me. I've never been hurt. You learn how to appreciate the small things about the game. Even though I'm not playing, I still love it.
"It's going to be a bittersweet feeling (on Saturday). Me, personally, I don't put too much importance on any one game — to miss any game is kind of heartbreaking for me."
Army (3-8) enters the game against Navy (7-4) averaging 325.9 yards rushing, tops in the nation as the Black Knights seek their third straight rushing title, which would be an academy first.
Last season, Army rushed for a school-record 4,438 yards, while the 2011 squad ran for 4,158. Those mark the only two times the team has topped 4,000 yards, and the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Maples was an integral part of both. He rushed for 1,215 yards in 2012 and 1,066 the previous year, becoming just the third sophomore in school history to eclipse 1,000 yards. He also averaged 7.3 yards per carry as a sophomore, breaking the Army record for average yards per rush by a player with at least 100 carries in a season.
Spectator wasn't what anyone was anticipating.
"It's obviously been very frustrating," Army head coach Rich Ellerson said. "It's heartbreaking for him because we thought he was going to be able to make a run at it late in the season, but it hasn't happened."
The chance to match former star Mike Mayweather as the only running back in Army history to post three 1,000-yard seasons vanished on one of the staples of the triple option — a simple pitch.
"I caught the ball and tried to jump and it popped," said Maples, who had 23 carries for 123 yards this season. "I thought it would be fine, but the next day it got extremely swollen. I didn't think it was that bad, but when the MRI came back the doctors were shocked."