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Jenni Carlson: Missing games hurt OSU's Orie Lemon more than his injured knee

BY JENNI CARLSON Modified: July 28, 2010 at 8:28 am •  Published: July 27, 2010

Lemon didn't believe it.

"I went back out there and ran on my own," he said. "I don't think anybody knew that."

He shrugged.

"It was just tight. It wasn't swollen or anything."

But it was torn. In less than 24 hours, Lemon had gone from getting ready for Georgia to thinking about surgery and rehab and a lost season.

"It was very hard," Lemon said. "My teammates ... they told me to stay positive."

Not that he wanted to hear it.

"Not at that point," he said. "Not at that moment."

Lemon cried on Saturdays before games, heartsick about what he was missing. He longed to be on the field. He yearned to be in the fray.

Those emotions surprised him.

Oh, Lemon knew that he loved football. He gravitated toward the game ever since he was a kid growing up in Houston. He devoted himself to lifting and conditioning and practicing.

But he still didn't know how much football meant to him until it was taken away from him.

"I found love for the game that I never thought I had," he said.

It changed his approach to this season and his appreciation for this sport.

Who knows what impact that could have on the Cowboys this season? For a defense short on experience but long on promise, having a leader who is inspired like Lemon is could pay huge dividends.

"I've never been injured," Lemon said. "I never knew what it felt like to be hurt or injured."

He raised an eyebrow.

"I still really don't know what it feels like to be injured; I wasn't in pain or anything."

Not in his knee, anyway.