One year removed from injury, Listenbee working his way back to the field

Sal Capaccio
September 13, 2016 - 6:18 am

Photo: USA Today Sports

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By Sal Capaccio

Twitter @SalSports




Next Monday will mark exactly one year since it happened, but Kolby Listenbee remembers it as vividly as if it were just one day ago.  He even recalls the specific date like he’s telling someone when his birthday is.  But this isn’t an anniversary to cheer.  It’s actually one that has already cost him a chance at one million dollars and possibly all of his rookie NFL season.

“Actually, it happened on September 19, so almost a year, in about a week,” the Bills wired receiver tells me as he looks up from his phone while sitting in his locker.  “I caught the ball against SMU, over somebody's head, landed on my tail bone, and the first five minutes my tail bone was killing me.”

“After that happened, in like five minutes, (the pain) just shot through my tail bone, into like to my pelvis area, and my adductor started killing me. I sat out the rest of the game, the next two games.”

Listenbee actually sat out the next three games, unable to play for his TCU Horned Frogs in key matchups against Big 12 foes Texas Tech, Kansas, and Kansas State.  In the game just before it all happened, the speedster caught 9 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown against Stephen F. Austin.  He was well on his way to another big day when the injury occurred against SMU, already collecting a pair of receptions for 51 yards and a TD.

Then after it all happened, not only did he not know what was wrong, there were differing opinions on the injury from others, and it seemed no one quite knew the true severity of it.

“They said I didn't have double sports hernia at first,” he said.  “I had a couple teammates that had it, so I heard of it, but I never really knew what it was. One of my coaches thought that I had it, but everybody else thought it wasn't as bad as it was.”

Despite the pain he endured and the true nature of the injury, Listenbee returned to the field almost exactly a month later and still caught 6 passes for 101 yards a TD in a 45-21 win against Iowa State, then followed that up with another 4 catches for 86 yards in a 40-10 win over West Virginia.

One of the fastest athletes in all of college sports finished the season, but when it came time for the Combine and to show what he could do for NFL scouts, he still wasn’t quite right and believes that not only cost him a chance to prove what he could do as a wide receiver at the next level, but also a big pay day.

“It was frustrating, really, because I couldn't really go out there and show that I play receiver,” he said.  “I wanted to go out there and break the record and get the million dollars.”

Adidas put up a $1 million prize to any prospect who could break the 4.24 seconds 40-yard dash record set by Chris Johnson in 2008.  Listenbee ran a 4.39.  That’s still remarkably fast, especially considering he did it while still dealing with the effects from the injury.  But he was still upset.  

“It was frustrating seeing my time,” he said.  “Even thought I ran it hurt, I still wanted to be the best one out there.”

Keith Marshall, a running back from Georgia, had the best time overall with a 4.31.  Listenbee was eighth out of all participants.  He had the second fastest time for a WR, behind only Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, who clocked a 4.32.

The Bills selected Listenbee in the sixth round of the draft with the 192nd pick overall, well aware that the Arlington, Texas native could be out for all of training camp and into the season.  Because he never officially took the field for any practices, the team was able to place Listenbee on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List, where he can sit for the first six weeks of the season before a decision will have to be made on whether or not he can be activated to the team’s 53-man roster or go on Injured Reserve for the remainder of the season.

The 22-year old is working his way back to where he hopes he can contribute this season.  And he’s doing it with fellow 2016 draft pick Shaq Lawson who is in a similar situation.  The Bills first rounder is on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List while he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.  The two are seen almost every day working off to the side while their teammates practice on the field.

“I’m actually running and working out,” Listenbee said. “Me and Shaq (Lawson) with the strength coach and stuff and doing some sprints of stuff. So I mean I'm feeling way better way, I haven't done no lateral stuff, but I've been going straight ahead…..It's really day-to-day, day-by-day. I'm continually getting better.  I have six weeks. I'm on NFI, basically PUP. So I mean we're going to see how it goes weeks six.”

As the 6-1, 183 pound wideout recovers and watches, he says he’s just trying to stay positive about everything, hoping later in the year he’s healthy enough to warrant getting his shot and helping his team.

“I think I could,” he said as his eyes lit up a bit.  “I mean that's the plan. I want to go out there and keep on getting better. Try to go get my feet wet in this offense and make plays whenever I have a chance to go on the field.”

Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

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