Dominique Battle arrived in Cincinnati in 2008 as one of the more highly touted incoming freshman set to join the University of Cincinnati football team.
Battle made an immediate impact. He worked his way into a major role in a defensive backfield featuring three future NFL players — DeAngelo Smith, Brandon Underwood and Mike Mickens.
After earning UC’s Newcomer of the Year award in ’08, Battle entered the 2009 season with increased expectations and the Florida native did not disappoint.
Battle emerged as the clear-cut first choice at corner, starting 12 of UC’s 13 games on the way to an undefeated regular season and eventual Sugar Bowl loss to Florida.
With two years left to improve on a promising start to his college football career, Battle looked poised to follow in the NFL-bound footsteps of the aforementioned seniors he played along side as a freshman. Unfortunately for Battle, very little has gone according to plan since then.
His career, which began with nearly unlimited potential, can now best be described by Dominique’s name — a ‘Battle’, as he put it, “just [to] get back.”
“I didn’t know it was that serious at first, until the next week when we got it checked out and they told me I’d have to have surgery.” Battle said, describing the season–ending left knee injury he suffered in 2010. “It hurt, it was my junior year and I’d never really been hurt before — and then I get three serious injuries right in a row.”
Battle tore his left MCL in the opening quarter of UC’s week three game against Oklahoma. But because only three weeks of the season had passed at the time of his injury, the NCAA would later grant him a medical redshirt — extending his eligibility through the 2012-13 season.
Many players have recovered from a knee surgery and returned to the field like nothing had ever happened. But for Battle, the MCL surgery following the Oklahoma game would only be his first of three.
Battle started the 2011 season strong, notching 18 tackles and a pair of interceptions through the first five games. Unfortunately, he went down again against South Florida, this time with torn right ACL.
With six weeks of the season already gone, Battle’s 2011 season was finished.
After recovering from his second surgery, Battle returned to training in preparation for his final year with the Bearcats. He wouldn’t even make it through preseason spring practices before he suffered another injury.
“It was right before spring ball and it was just like: Again? Why is this happening to me again?,” Battle said.
After suffering his third knee injury in as many years, many fans wondered if Battle would — or could — return again.
At times throughout his injury woes, even Battle questioned if a return was possible.
“Every time you go through the process of getting a serious injury and have a surgery, you think about [your career ending], but this is what we do, I knew the consequences,” Battle said.
Despite doubters and a real possibility he might not be able to recover in time to compete this season, Battle forged on — just like he did twice before.
“My mind-set has always been I just have do what I have to do to get back out there,” Battle said. “Work every day in the training room, all day basically, and just get back.”
Battle presumably isn’t 100 percent healthy and after back-to-back injuries to his right knee in less than a year’s time, he probably won’t be this season. But he has done enough to get back on the field.
Coming on as a Safety in the second half against Delaware State Saturday, Battle came up huge in a surprisingly close game.
“It was great to see him playing in his first action since USF last year,” said Butch Jones, UC’s head coach. “He made the big hit on their sideline on a big third down play to jar the ball loose, which was great to see and I think you will see him get more repetitions as the season goes on. It was great to see him back on the field and I think it uplifted our team as well.”
The Florida native has moved to safety because of injuries to Drew Frey and Adrian Witty, but Battle said he will always be a corner at heart.
Battle’s teammates, who were clearly energized by his presence in the game, deserve much of the credit for helping him to return from injury for the third time.
“My biggest support has really been my teammates, the younger players who look up to me and who’ve seen what I’ve done in the program, my classmates that came in with me and just this senior class,” he said. “They’re really the ones getting me through this.”
As Jones alluded to, Battle should receive more snaps as the season goes on as he returns to game fitness. But, for now, Battle is simply happy to be back.
“It’s been a long journey, but I’m really just glad to be back and be back out here with all of my teammates”.