Past adversity strengthens Plancher

On Sept. 5, 2008, a tribute to Central Florida running back Ereck Plancher, who collapsed and died five months earlier after an offseason-conditioning workout, was played before the Knights’ game against USF.

Standing on the same field in a USF uniform was his cousin Mo Plancher.

Mo Plancher, who started that game in place of an injured Mike Ford, gained 27 yards on his first carry, then capped the Bulls’ opening drive with a 14-yard touchdown run.

“I was just proud to wear Plancher on the back of my jersey, representing my cousin that night,” Plancher said. “I didn’t know I was going to start and it meant a lot to me.”

Almost a year since his cousin died of sickle-cell trait, the 5-foot-9, 200 pound senior has managed to overcome this tragedy, along with a string of injuries that has plagued his career since 2005 when he joined the Bulls.

“I look to my family, my father and my cousin who passed away for inspiration,” Plancher said. “I tell anyone that has dealt with something difficult or lost a loved one to keep working harder and strive to represent that person the best way they can.”

After redshirting in 2005, Plancher medical redshirted in 2006 because he tore his ACL on the opening drive of the Bulls’ opener against McNeese State.

Although Plancher returned for the 2007 season, his string of injuries included a shoulder operation, severely sprained ankle, pulled hamstring and dislocated elbow.

“Mo has had a lot of tough things happen to him in the past few years,” said running backs assistant coach Carl Franks. “The Lord does not give us any more than we can handle, and I know this is very true in Mo’s case because it has made him a stronger person mentally and physically.”

Last season, Plancher finished with 322 yards and led the team with six touchdowns. These numbers only motivate Plancher to work harder for this season, he said.

“I worked really hard over the summer to improve my nutrition and flexibility,” Plancher said. “I am feeling really good about my personal improvements and I am just ready to get on the field and play.”

Plancher’s coaches agree, especially considering his ability to overcome his past.

“His past has made him appreciate the game of football more, and his coaches and teammates have seen how hard he’s worked,” Franks said. “This alone has earned him a spot as our number one guy to go to with the ball.”

With his past experience, Plancher expects to lead some of his younger teammates.

“When a teammate is having a hard time, I pull them aside and tell them what I have been through and that they have to keep striving to be better,” he said.

His teammates and coaches have full confidence in Plancher as he is expected to start against Wofford on Saturday.

“Mo is the guy that I trust,” Franks said. “When a coach trusts you, that is the highest privilege for anyone playing football.”