College Football: Perry Stefanelli's return 'a huge boost' for Green Terror

College Football: Perry Stefanelli's return 'a huge boost' for Green Terror
McDaniel's Perry Stefanelli gets the ball from quarterback Will Koester in the Green Terror's 2017 season opener against Catholic at Kenneth R. Gill Stadium. (Times File Photo)

When looking at McDaniel College’s football roster, Perry Stefanelli sticks out.

Just not in the way you’d expect.


Academically he’s on track, having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in May. He’s pursuing a master’s in kinesiology this fall.

But the fifth-year running back has unfinished business on the football field. Stefanelli is returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, with one year of eligibility left in his college football career — and he’s determined to make the most of it as the lone graduate student on McDaniel’s roster.

Stefanelli (5-foot-5, 170 pounds) was on his way to a career year last fall with the Green Terror. He totaled 382 rushing yards and five touchdowns through three games, including a 167-yard, three-score performance in a 43-41 loss to Franklin & Marshall.

Four carries into a Week 4 home matchup against Gettysburg, Stefanelli suffered one of the most painful injuries he said he has ever endured — an ACL tear that ended his season.

“It all happened really fast,” Stefanelli said. “As I went along, it would come back to me a little more. I kind of felt in my heart that it was my ACL, even though I had never had any knee injuries before.”

After a broken ankle prematurely ended his freshman season, Stefanelli was keen on returning as a graduate player. That setback allowed him an extra year of eligibility, but the torn ACL added a new level of difficulty.

McDaniel's Perry Stefanelli gains yardage against Susquehanna in a game in 2016.
McDaniel's Perry Stefanelli gains yardage against Susquehanna in a game in 2016. (Times File Photo)

While ACL injuries have become a more commonly treated ailment as the medical field has progressed, the recovery is still extensive. From an initial surgery to months of physical and mental battles, even the most simplistic of movements were put into question.

“It’s tough,” Stefanelli said. “It’s one thing to not want to give up and keep pushing through but … even day-to-day walking, going up stairs, I always had to be conscious of how my knee was functioning through those movements.”

Even with the determination of staying positive with the goal of returning to the field, Stefanelli said doubt crept in.

“Everything becomes overwhelming,” he said. “Because some days you feel good and then … you could overdo it or the swelling builds on you and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘What the heck?'”

But the doubt was counteracted with the support of friends, family, and the athletic training staff at McDaniel, of which Stefanelli said he has worked extensively. The key, he said, has been surrounding himself with a group of people that has helped him along the rehabilitative journey.

Eleven months later, Stefanelli is back in full pads practicing with McDaniel as it prepares for the 2018 season. The opener is Sept. 1 at Catholic.

Terror coach Mike Dailey said the staff has kept close tabs on Stefanelli’s return to make sure there are no setbacks, but he expressed plenty of excitement in having one of his top offensive weapons back for one more year.

“It’s fantastic to see him return,” Dailey said. “It’s a huge boost for us as a program.”


Stefanelli said the goal is to be ready to suit up for Week 1 against the Cardinals, who McDaniel defeated 30-10 at Kenneth R. Gill Stadium in last year’s opener. Stefanelli had 146 rushing yards and a touchdown in the win.

McDaniel finished 3-7 (2-7 in the Centennial Conference), however, and ended the fall on a six-game losing streak. Now a fifth-year back, Stefanelli said he expects to see the same productivity as before — he’s averaging 4.9 yards per carry for his career (25 games) with 1,320 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“I think I’m making really good strides to reach that and it’s been looking good," Stefanelli said. “I plan on having what I was having last year, but better.”