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Gateway football star to miss season

Gateway's Dondi Kirby was speechless when his doctor told him there would be no senior season.

"My mind literally went blank," said Kirby, one of the WPIAL's most highly recruited football players. "I started crying as soon as I heard it. It was a heartbreaker."

Kirby, a standout defensive back and receiver, will miss the upcoming season with a torn ACL in his left knee, an injury suffered June 25 during a football camp at the University of Michigan. Kirby said Thursday that he will need surgery sometime within the next month.

"I knew something happened, but I thought maybe it was just a sprain," said Kirby, who was recently diagnosed with the season-ending injury.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior-to-be was ranked as the sixth-best high school safety in the country by Rivals.com and seventh among cornerbacks by Scout.com.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "This is a turning point in my life. It's going to make me work harder than I ever did to get back."

The injury happened when Kirby leaped to make a catch and became tangled with a defender. When Kirby landed, his foot stuck in the ground, and the defender landed on top. His coach, Terry Smith, knew instantly that Kirby was hurt.

"The way he fell and seeing the way he reacted, I knew it wasn't good," Smith said.

Kirby, now undergoing physical therapy, will return to the doctor July 19 to set a date for surgery. Afterward, he could need another eight months of therapy to recover.

"If I work hard, it could be five or six months," Kirby said. "I'm going to do everything I can."

As a junior, Kirby had only six catches for 102 yards but also had four interceptions. He would have played a significant role this fall for Gateway, the WPIAL Class AAAA runner-up in 2009.

"It's one thing to lose a starter, but it's another to lose a blue-chip starter," Smith said. "Dondi is one of the top three or four kids I've coached here. It's a big loss for us."

Kirby had received scholarship offers from more than 30 colleges, including USC, Florida, Ohio State and Pitt. Kirby was afraid some would lose interest after his injury, but Smith said the schools have promised to honor the scholarship offers. The latest to reaffirm its interest was Florida.

"I was very nervous," Kirby said. "It's good to know the schools are going to stick by me and wait for me to get better."

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