July 10, 2012
Charlottesville, Va. -
At the low point of Anthony Poindexter's college football career, he had Dr. Frank McCue III to lean on.
On Oct. 24, 1998, in the seventh game of his senior season at UVa, Poindexter suffered a catastrophic injury, tearing the anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee.
Dr. McCue, who headed UVa's sports medicine program, had already operated three times on Poindexter. There had been two arthroscopic surgeries on Poindexter's left knee and an operation to fix his left labrum. But this injury was infinitely more serious than those had been, and Dr. McCue, an acclaimed orthopedic surgeon, prepared accordingly.
"He went above and beyond to make sure I would have an opportunity to play again," Poindexter, now a Virginia assistant coach, recalled Tuesday.
Three days after Poindexter was hurt in the final minutes of UVa's 23-13 win over NC State at Scott Stadium, Dr. McCue performed arthroscopic surgery on the knee. Reconstructive surgery was scheduled for Nov. 6, and for about a week before the operation Poindexter slept in the spare bedroom of Dr. McCue's Charlottesville home.
"Every night before the surgery, Doc was coming and telling me exactly what he was planning on doing and how he wanted to do it," Poindexter said. "When he did this major surgery on me, he really took it to heart and wanted to get it done the right way, to give me every opportunity to have a chance to play again.
"He was reading in books about doctors that had already done the surgery. I spent a lot of time with him. We'd be up at night, and he'd be telling me how he was going to do it and showing me pictures."
Poindexter laughed. "I didn't know what he was talking about. But when you think about all the surgeries he had done, for him to then go back [and research more], I knew how much he cared for me and cared about getting things done the right way."
After the surgery, Poindexter stayed about three more weeks at the home of Frank and Nancy McCue, who treated him like a son. "I spent a lot of time there," Poindexter said. "I might as well have just moved in."
Dr. McCue, a revered figure in Charlottesville and around the state, died Sunday at the age of 82. The news hit Poindexter particularly hard.
"He was just a great man," said Poindexter, who was an All-America safety for the Cavaliers. "I know he was a great doctor. Hey, he got me fixed. But you're talking about one of the best people I've ever been around in my life.
"It's tough. Him and Ms. McCue, you think of them as your mom and dad, you think of them as your own family, so it's tough for everybody."
Before his horrific injury, Poindexter was projected as a first- or second-round pick in the '99 NFL draft. He was never the same player after the injury, Dr. McCue's best efforts notwithstanding, but the Baltimore Ravens selected Poindexter in the seventh round in 1999, and he drew NFL paychecks for parts of three seasons before his playing career ended in 2001.
Poindexter marveled at Dr. McCue's unassuming manner and ease with people from all backgrounds.
"You would never know he was a guy with that kind of stature [in the medical world]," Poindexter said. "He was just a normal guy. I loved spending time with him and listening to him tell me stories."
Poindexter fondly recalls driving with Dr. McCue to a football game at Jefferson Forest High, the school at which Poindexter starred being heading up Route 29 to UVa.
"He loved the simple things," said Poindexter, whose office is in the building named for Dr. McCue. "He liked getting a hot dog at a high school game."
Poindexter saw Dr. McCue for the last time at a gathering of the McCue Society last month at Bryant Hall. The McCue Society's members include Dr. McCue's former colleagues, fellows and athletic trainers, as well as students and friends.
Dr. McCue received countless accolades for his work as a surgeon, but what Poindexter will remember most is "the person that he was, the man he was, how he embraced everyone. You could call him and say, 'Hey, Doc, I got a little cousin that's got a hurt foot. Can you take a look at him?' And Doc would be like, 'Yeah, just bring him to the office.' "
"He was just a giving person and a loving person, and you loved to be around him. The Wahoo Nation has lost a great, great man."
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Visitations for Dr. McCue will be held Saturday, July 21, and Sunday, July 22, at Teague Funeral Home, 2260 Ivy Rd. in Charlottesville. The times: 6 to 8 p.m. on July 21; 2 to 4 p.m. on July 22.
Interment will be private.