Texas Tech’s Kosi Eldridge sees a healthy return from the hard end through 2021

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Kosi Eldridge is gearing up for his senior year of college football in 2022, and the Texas Tech linebacker says he hasn’t played like this in a season since probably the first year he’s ever played was excited.

Eldridge has three years of Big 12 experience, he’s in the twos deep for Joey McGuire’s team and his head is clear again. The latter is no small consideration, as Eldridge wouldn’t wish his last three months of 2021 on anyone else.

Early in the fourth quarter of Tech’s Oct. 2 game in West Virginia, Eldridge and Tech safety Adrian Frye sprinted from opposite directions to meet Mountaineers wide receiver Winston Wright. Eldridge, chasing the game out of the box, hit Wright near the other touchline. A split second later, Frye, coming up from the deep secondary, blasted them both.

Eldridge remained lying flat on his back while the Tech’s medical staff tended to him.

It’s the kind of game that happens on many Saturdays, after which the announcers throw in a commercial break upstairs in the dressing room and play resumes a few minutes later. For Eldridge, the concussion experience was just beginning.

“Yeah, it was scary,” he said Thursday. “That was scary for me because I’ve had concussions in the past. I’ve never had such an impact on myself as I did afterwards.”

Eldridge later watched the play simply because he didn’t remember it.

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“I don’t watch it anymore,” he said, “but I didn’t know what happened. So I watched the piece on film the next day to see what happened.”

The 6-foot, 233-pound Denton Ryan product returned four Saturdays later. He made a few tackles against Oklahoma, a few more against Iowa State. And when the Red Raiders routed Mississippi State in the season-ending Liberty Bowl, he made a tackle and caused a fumble.

But when everything in Eldridge’s life seemed normal again, it was an illusion. November and early December were a mess.

Originally, Eldridge planned to apply for incomplete status for nine of the 12 credit hours of his fall semester and then finish the coursework during the break between semesters. However, he had to pass those classes within the semester to qualify for the bowl game.

“Even after I played, I still wasn’t allowed to do as much school,” he said, “because all my classes were online. They didn’t want me on screen for so long. So the last week at school I worked all day, all night, finished all my papers and in the end I got all my classes passed and finished. It was tough but I made it.

The symptoms subsided. Eldridge went through spring practice. The Red Raiders started preseason training on Friday and running back SaRodorick Thompson can’t wait to see what his pal can do. Eldridge said his roommate, defensive tackle Jaylon Hutchings, and Thompson helped him get through the rough patch last fall.

When both are doing well, Thompson and Eldridge have been battling each other across a chessboard and on the basketball court. When Eldridge was banned from lighted screens—a brief period for schoolwork, but no television or video games—Hutchings and Thompson were close by to keep him company and keep his spirits up.

“Kosi’s a resilient guy, man,” Thompson said. “He’s had two shoulder surgeries, this bad concussion. He’s been through a lot. But he knows what kind of footballer he is. He knows who he is as a person, so he’ll be fine. He knows he’s going to go well. And now we’re finally seeing what Kosi can bring to the table.”

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Eldridge has played in 30 games, two of which he has started since joining Tech from Kilgore College. He’s been a multi-faceted backup most of the time, and Thompson says Eldridge deserves to go out with a good year.

“Kosi got a bad hand,” Thompson said. “He was behind (Colin) Schooler. He’s been behind Riko (Jeffers) for the last two, three years and he’s had those injuries.

“Now we see who Kosi actually is. Kosi is a stud man. He’s one of the most versatile players I’ve ever seen, period.”

The latest example of Eldridge’s versatility came this summer. He spent most of spring training backing up Marquis “Muddy” Waters at the star position, a combination outside linebacker/safety/slot corner. Coaches have since moved him to linebacker on the weak side, where he’s second-team behind newcomer Dimitri Moore.

Not a problem, Eldridge says, considering the number of positions he’s held between high school and college.

“The good thing is that Star taught me a lot of reporting things that I needed to know that will help me at will (weak linebacker),” he said. “And Will and Star have a lot of similarities. Since I’ve been here I’ve played safety, I’ve played nickels, I’ve played linebackers, so it didn’t make much of a difference.

“I’m really really excited to play Will because I think me and Mud (Waters) will be special on the other side.”

Now Eldridge just wants to play all 12 regular-season games and what comes after.

He says he has no qualms about serving as a soldier in football after his concussion experience.

“There is no need to worry about that. The only person who worries about this is my mom,” he said with a chuckle. “Yeah, we’ll be fine.”

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