If there's a good side to the freak accident that has landed Virginia tight end Bruce McGonnigal in a Charlottesville hospital, his father thinks that it might make the laid-back Baltimore native a bit more vocal in pursuing his goal.
"It's really going to have to open up Bruce, to get him talking about what he wants: a career in the NFL," Rick McGonnigal said about his son.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior is resting at University of Virginia Hospital with a lacerated spleen and a bruised kidney after he fell into a 6 1/2 -foot walk-in last Thursday, trying to recover a dog during a thunderstorm.
According to his father, Bruce and his girlfriend, Tina Marrs, were house-sitting near the Virginia campus when the storm arose. The family for whom they were watching the house own several dogs, one of whom is deaf.
As the storm came up, the couple feared for the dog's safety and McGonnigal, a graduate of Loyola High, went out to find it. As he wandered around the unfamiliar territory, McGonnigal stumbled and fell into the walk-in and was briefly unconscious.
When Marrs and the couple's dog went out after McGonnigal, they found him in the hole and she pulled him out and got him to the hospital, although he was immediately incoherent, Rick McGonnigal said.
Doctors performed a CAT scan to determine if McGonnigal had suffered a concussion, but a subsequent CAT scan detected the abdominal injuries. Although the injuries are considered serious and McGonnigal is in what his father described as "miserable pain," he is listed in good condition, though he does not remember much of the accident.
The younger McGonnigal, who already has been visited by teammates and coaches, is expected to remain hospitalized for the next 10 to 14 days, right up until the time his top-ranked Cavaliers meet 16th-ranked Georgia Tech in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown Nov. 3.
The injury is expected to keep McGonnigal, who is just 25 catches away from John Ford's all-time school receptions total of 111 and third on Virginia's all-time receiving yards list with 1,556, out of the lineup for the rest of the regular season.
His father said there is a slim hope that he can return for postseason play, which, with Virginia's storybook season, could mean a national championship game.
The injuries may, however, cost him a chance at the Japan Bowl and Hula Bowl, two important senior all-star games that showcase players before NFL scouts. Ironically, McGonnigal had had one of his best practices last Thursday with pro scouts in attendance, a school spokesman said.
Still, Rick McGonnigal said, doctors have assured them that Bruce, an All-ACC performer last season with 42 catches, will be able to play again and that he will be healthy in time for next spring's combines and tryouts.
"The doctors tell us that the organs will heal," said Rick McGonnigal. "It's just a question of him getting into shape."