Singer returns to RocketsWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In a year full of promise in 2011, Mark Singer watched from the sidelines.
The Rockets’ starting free safety suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on the first day of fall camp. Now, one year later, Singer is back competing in that same camp, ready to retake the field in 2012.
“It’s great to be back with the guys,” Singer said. “Camp is a grind but as long as you focus on getting better every play, it’s fun.”
The injury, a torn labrum, was the first major setback for Singer in his career. Instead of competing for the Rockets, the preseason favorites in the Mid-American Conference, the Cinnaminson, N.J., native watched as his team finished one game short of the league title game held in Detroit.
“Here is a kid who was going to be a four-year starter, expecting to play and expecting to be the guy,” Toledo head coach Matt Campbell said. “He goes to fall camp and the first day [he’s injured]. Now he has to sit out his senior year with all his buddies he came in with playing.”
“It was one of the toughest things that happened to me in my life,” Singer said. “All I have ever done is play football and I had that taken away for a year. I tried to sit in meetings and I tried to stay focused. You hear people tell stories about [season-ending injuries], but when you actually go through it, it’s tough.”
Singer was coming off a career year in 2010, finishing fourth on the team and 11th among MAC defensive backs with 73 tackles. He also grabbed two interceptions and broke up three passes on the season.
After racking up such a successful junior campaign, being sidelined during his team’s defensive struggles, especially in the passing game, was particularly painful. The Rockets finished 105th out of 120 teams in the country, allowing over 268 yards through the air per contest. The team also allowed 63 points in consecutive weeks to league opponents Northern Illinois and Western Michigan in November.
“It’s tough to watch the team give up points like that,” Singer said. “It’s nobody’s fault; we are a team. It’s just tough to see that because you just wish you would go out and do something about it. The past is the past, and we are ready to rock ’n’ roll this year. Our defense is ready.”
During his time off last season, Singer didn’t let the year go to waste. Instead, he focused his efforts as an unofficial member of the coaching staff. Former head coach Tim Beckman, now at Illinois, let Singer join in the defensive meetings as the coaches went over scouting for their next opponents. He also worked with some of the younger players and gave defensive signals during the games from the sidelines.
“He decided he was going to sit in as a coach and come back for his senior year,” Campbell said. “He could have graduated and have been done but he decided to make that choice and I think our program is paying great dividends for his sacrifice. I think he brings instant credibility into every room that he enters, and he brings a wealth of knowledge. Football is about experience, and when you have experienced players, I think it really helps our program.
That experience acting in a coaching role has Singer prepared for this season, especially with the increased responsibility he says Campbell is asking of his seniors for 2012.
“Coach Campbell is really trying to input a player-driven program with the seniors, and I think that is great,” Singer said. “I think that younger players listen to older players more than coaches just because we are all on the same level. I just think it’s great how he is making it more player-oriented.”
Singer will make his official return to game action in 18 days when the Rockets travel to Tucson to face Pac-12 opponent Arizona at 10:30 p.m. on ESPNU.