By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Justin Malone started four games at right guard as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and was all set to take over the job full-time this past fall.
The 6-foot-7, 320-pounder indeed started Mississippi State’s season opener. But Malone’s season would be short-lived after suffering a season-ending broken foot against Oklahoma State.
“I didn’t panic, but I felt it when it happened,” Malone said. “I was blocking one guy and another guy just ran over my leg. After it happened I tried to get up but the refs told me to stay down. Then I immediately started grabbing my facemask and thinking ‘oh no’. It was bad.”
The trainers initially thought Malone had a sprain but an MRI revealed much worse, a lisfranc fracture. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chad Altmeyer performed a procedure that has kept the former Madison-Ridgeland Academy standout sidelined since.
Former walk-on Ben Beckwith started the final 12 games at right guard for the Bulldogs and also forced the redshirt to come off true freshman Jamaal Clayborn last fall.
“I thought they did really well,” Malone said. “Ben is a legitimate SEC starter and Jamaal is working his way up. He was a true freshman and it was a little bit of a shock to him when he first got here, but now he’s a decent player who’ll get better as time goes on.”
Malone is back in pads this spring but has only participated in individual work. He has not taken part in any live contact during the first three weeks of workouts.
“It feels good to be back out here doing some things,” Malone said. “I’d been out here watching since August 31 in the (injury) pit. It hurt watching some of those close games last year knowing that I could’ve been out there and helped.”
Malone expects to be ready for contact when fall camp opens in August and will be battling Beckwith and Clayborn for one of the guard spots. All-American Gabe Jackson leaves a large void to fill at left guard, which could be where Malone ends up.
Although the injury was an unfortunate turn of events, there is a possibility Malone could get that year back through a medical redshirt. A waiver can be requested by the university to the NCAA after the student-athlete’s final year of eligibility is up.
“That’s a definite possibility,” Malone said. “As my time gets shorter here, I’ll have to talk to my coaches about it and see what they think I should do.”