Just a few months after fighting for his life, Marcus Rios believes he is ready to play football again.
Last fall, the UCLA cornerback came down with a rare fungal infection, one that spread from his sinuses to the base of his brain.
In February, he went through four different surgeries. He was confined to UCLA Medical Center for nearly a month, and had a catheter pumping antibiotics through his arm for months after that.
Two weeks ago, he finally had the line removed. On Tuesday, he returned to practice for the first time.
“I didn’t think it would come so fast,” said Rios, who played nine games as a freshman. “It ended up happening. I got a call from my doctor saying the medication’s going good. Your body’s responding to it well. There’s no need for a PICC line anymore.”
The removal allowed him to return to workouts unencumbered. He still gets checked by doctors every month, and undergoes an MRI every two to three months. The results are encouraging.
Once withered down to 130 pounds, he said he is back up to 175, and would suit up in full pads right now if coaches allowed him.
“I was ready to go today,” Rios said. “I walked in there, I saw my pads. … I’m ready. I’m hungry. I’m just ready to ball again.”
For another two weeks, he’ll be restricted to strength and conditioning workouts with assistant coach Sal Alosi. Although the staff is trying to ease him back into action, Rios thinks he could return to the field as soon as Oct. 3, when UCLA visits Utah to open conference play.
“I’m definitely playing this year,” he said. “That’s happening.”