University of Pennsylvania quaterback John Keller may be able to play football again next year despite having suffered a lacerated liver three weeks ago while playing Harvard, according to his doctors.
Keller, a first-year Dodge City Community College transfer student, will miss the rest of the first semester but will be able to go back to school in six weeks.
The pre-med major, who has returned to his home in Kansas, should be healthy enough to start working out in three months, said Dr. Fred Balduini, the Quakers' team doctor.
Doctors will have to watch the injury area carefully to make sure it doesn't "rebleed," said Balduini, who stayed with Keller while he was in intensive care at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston.
Keller, a junior who started the season at quarterback for the Quakers, went down with about two minutes remaining in the first quarter of the Crimson-Penn game when linebacker Kris Thabit and tackle Tom McConnell hit him simultaneously from the front and back sides, effectively compressing him.
"When I first got hit I thought I had just had the wind knocked out of me," said Keller from his home. "But when I caught my breath, I kept going unconscious, and they kept waking me up. That's about all I can remember."
The injury turned out to be a lot more serious than most players on the field at the time had initially believed, said Harvard Captain Kevin Dulsky.
"The injury that he sustained was potentially very, very serious," said Dr. David Brooks, who performed surgery on Keller the night of the injury. "It's the kind of injury one would see from a high speed automobile accident."
Brooks said he was able to clean up the four-inch laceration in the liver during surgery, insuring that Keller would not lose a substantial portion of the vital organ.
Thabit, who hit Keller in the chest with his body and face mask on the play, later visited him in the hospital with Dulsky, McConnell and three other Harvard players. Thabit also said that he initially thought that Keller had just had the wind knocked out of him.
"It's good to hear that he's okay," Thabit said. "When we play we're not out to hurt anybody. Sometimes it just happens."
Quaker running back Bryan Keys, a promising sophomore, said that members of the team were rather upset when they saw Keller go down but hope he will be back next year to fight for the starting position.
It Keller is able to play, there will be a battle between him and sophomore Malcolm Glover, who actually stole Keller's starting job early in the season before he too got injured, breaking his thumb against Brown.
In that game, Keller came in and rallied the Quakers from a 17-0 deficit, as Penn went on to defeat the Bruins, 38-17.
Three weeks after the Harvard game, Quaker coaches were quick to express their appreciation for the hospital visit and expressed no ill-will.
"Certainly it was a good clean hit, and John knows that," Penn Assistant Coach Jim Margraff said. "A lot of [Harvard] guys dropped by and saw him in the hospital, and we really appreciate that."