Youd never know it by watching him, but Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay has been playing hurt this season.
Yet that hasnt slowed Kay, who leads the Bearcats into Saturdays Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium against North Carolina with a shot at another 10-win season.
Kay, a senior, has accounted for nearly 3,300 yards of total offense and 28 touchdowns for Cincinnati (9-3) despite injuries to his shoulder, back, ribs and ankle.
Ive been dealing with this since about Week 3, Kay said. But the guys know Ill be out there regardless of what happens, as long as I can go out there and compete. Its just the way I am.
It also earned Kay a nickname from first-year Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville.
I call him Iron Man, Tuberville said. I wouldnt have played. I dont know how he did it, I really dont. And its not just one injury, its been several things that have nagged him all year.
When youre a quarterback and youve got to make decisions, youre hurting and youve got to throw the ball it usually takes away from your concentration. Not him, though.
Tuberville got his first good look at Kay in action in last years Belk Bowl, where he threw for a bowl-record four touchdowns including the game-winner with 44 seconds left in a 48-34 victory against Duke and was named the games MVP.
The changes Tuberville who took over as Cincinnatis coach after last years bowl game made on offense (moving from a pro-style attack to a spread) appealed to Kay, and he emerged as the clear-cut starter during spring drills.
However, it was during two-a-day practices in the fall that Kay began struggling with injuries. Shoulder and back injuries limited his reps during scrimmages, moving senior Munchie Legaux the starter at the beginning of the 2012 season before he was replaced by Kay up the depth chart.
Legaux started the first two games, but when he went down for the season with a knee injury, Kay injuries and all took over, leading the Bearcats to bowl eligibility with wins in eight of their next nine games.
The injuries have limited Kays availability during the week according to Tuberville, he usually practices just one day, spending the rest of the time studying video of the next opponent but come game day, he has produced.
Kay has thrown for four touchdowns in a game three times this season, and he had back-to-back 400-yard passing games against Rutgers (405 yards) and Houston (406 yards). His 3,121 passing yards made Kay just the fourth Cincinnati quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards in school history.
Yet it was the Bearcats regular-season finale against Louisville where Kay cemented his Iron Man reputation.
Knocked out of the game with a badly sprained ankle, Kay returned after backup Jordan Luallen suffered a separated shoulder several plays later. Kay went on to throw for 304 yards and add two short touchdown runs in a 31-24 overtime loss.
Hes one of the most competitive quarterbacks Ive ever been around, said Cincinnati wide receiver Anthony McClung, the team leader in receptions (68) and receiving yards (908). Hes been playing hurt, but when the games on the line, you expect him to make plays.
Thats what Kay expects to do Saturday against North Carolina, especially now that he has had several weeks to recuperate.
Ive taken full advantage of this time off, Kay said. This is probably the best Ive felt in two months. Im excited to get out there and play some ball.
Lets throw the ball out there and go play and not stop until theres zeros on the clock.
Kiser on Twitter: @BKiser_CLTObs