Shaydon Kehano prepared for the past two football seasons with high hopes and expectations after leading Weber State in receiving yards as a sophomore in 2011.
Both times, Kehano, a 5-foot-11 wide receiver from Kaneohe, Hawaii, had his heart broken and his season interrupted by the sickening crunch of a broken leg.
In his return in the Wildcats' 45-24 loss last Saturday at Portland State, the resilient receiver made an immediate impact, catching six passes for a game-high 123 yards and a touchdown despite having missed nearly two seasons of football.
It was Kehano's first appearance in a game since Sept. 15, 2012, when his right fibula was fractured after a 28-yard gain against McNeese State at Stewart Stadium.
"Honestly it was the hardest thing I've had to deal with," Kehano said. "But I had my family and my teammates and my coaches keep my head up.
"It was tough. Especially that first time because obviously Mike Hoke, he was a senior and my thought process was, I'm never going to get to play with him again. I got over it in a couple weeks and my mindset was just coming back this year strong.
"I was feeling the best I could possibly have felt during camp and then it just happened again a week before (the season opener.)"
Hoke, Kehano's friend, roommate and fellow Hawaiian, was a senior in 2012. Kehano received a medical hardship waiver to repeat 2013 as a junior, but his return was delayed until the ninth week by the second injury.
"Honestly, I was hesitant going into the game, just because I broke my leg two times," he said, but it didn't stop him from believing he could contribute. "I knew I could have an impact how I did."
The first time he touched the football in Portland was a carry, not a catch, as he ran for 14 yards on a reverse.
"After that reverse, I got the butterflies out of me," Kehano said. "It got me into the game, got my mind off the injuries. I just did my thing."
The plan coming into the game was to limit Kehano's playing time, but "once I got into the groove, felt pretty good, I just told coach, I'm good, my leg's fine, you guys don't need to take me out," he said.
Weber State coach Jody Sears was thrilled with Kehano's return.
"Welcome back, buddy," he told him in the locker room after the game.
His one touchdown catch should have been two as Kehano reached over a Vikings defender to make a 39-yard grab in the third quarter but was ruled down at the 1-yard line.
WSU quarterback Austin Chipoletti didn't know how much Kehano might be able to push it in his return to the gridiron.
"Me and Shaydon, we talk," Chipoletti said. "I always asked him this week, how are you feeling? And it was, oh, I'm feeling all right.
"To come out and have this performance first game back is impressive and I'm glad we've got him on our side."
Contact sports reporter Roy Burton at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RoyBurtonSE.