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Suffering Nears End for Zedalis

August 31, 2000

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ An injury that doesn’t heal can drive almost any player to a breaking point. It’s easy to see when that point came for Florida center Zac Zedalis.

``I started stinging myself with bees,″ Zedalis said.

It’s a treatment that obviously takes some explaining, as does the complicated string of injuries that made him a spectator for most of last year, and will keep him on the sideline Saturday when No. 9 Florida plays Ball State.

Zedalis, a senior, went down in the season opener last year with what doctors initially diagnosed as a strained left knee. That’s an injury that normally takes three to four weeks to heal. He figured he’d be back for the heart of Florida’s season.

That wasn’t so.

The knee didn’t respond to treatment. It turned out a ligament had been torn. Once known as an iron man for Florida, Zedalis suffered on the sidelines, not making the road trips he had become accustomed to, and not feeling a part of the success the Gators enjoyed early in the year.

``It was one of the worst times ever in my young life, so far,″ Zedalis said.

Once the tear was diagnosed, doctors found that Zedalis had Pellegrini-Stieda disease, in which bone matter formed where ligament was supposed to be.

Treating that disease ate up the rest of the season. Before that diagnosis, Zedalis was looking for anything that worked.

That’s where the bees came in. Having read a study done in Maryland that said bee stings helped cure arthritis, Zedalis gave it a shot.

``I know people with (bee) hives,″ he said. ``You catch them and grab them by the back of their wings and put them on the spot you want healed. Then, you thump them in the head until they get angry and they sting you.

``Some people think I’m an idiot for doing it. But when you come to the end of your rope and you see your season floating away, you’ll try anything to get back out there.″

Just when he seemed ready to return, Zedalis started having ankle problems. That’s what will keep him out of this week’s game.

His loss has been part of a summer of freak injuries for the Florida line, which nearly lost sophomore tackle Mike Pearson when he fractured his head after bumping into a beam in a garage while riding in the back of a pickup truck. Pearson has recovered in time to play Saturday.

Right tackle Kenyatta Walker will miss the first half while serving a suspension for being involved in a fight in the Citrus Bowl.

The injuries give backup sophomore David Jorgenson and junior Tommy Hilliard the chance to gain experience in a game in which the Gators are favored by 45.

``Hopefully, Zac will get back, but we can’t sit around here and talk about Zac every day,″ coach Steve Spurrier said. ``Jorgie and Hilliard, they’ve got to go play. They could have to play the season, or Zac could be back next Saturday.″

As far as Zedalis is concerned, the sooner the better.

``It hurt to see coaches walk by and say, `This guy is soft, not what we thought he was,‴ Zedalis said. ``It hurts to have your pride and integrity ripped at every day. I feel like I still have the respect of the players, but not the respect I want.″

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