Gordon Monson: What will Utah quarterback Cam Rising do? More important is what he’s done.

The quarterback has been shut down for the season, but could potentially return next year if he seeks a medical redshirt.

(James Roh | Special to The Tribune) Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, center, celebrates Utah’s victory over the California Golden Bears at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Oct. 14, 2023.

The quarterback has already accomplished more than most college QBs could ever hope to achieve. He’s thrown for 5,572 yards, 46 touchdowns, run for 953 yards and 12 scores, and won two Pac-12 championships and taken his Utah team to two Rose Bowls, each of which were memorable trips, except for the fact that both of them ended for him in pain.

Earlier this year in Pasadena, he blew out a knee, messing up nearly every ligament, every tendon, every bit and piece and particle of and in that joint. And despite all the effort, all the time, all the patience, all the solitary rehab away from the action on the field, far distant from the bright lights and from his teammates, Cam Rising’s fate has proved what we should have known all along: That the second-best quarterback ever to have played at Utah is first and foremost human.

You know his story and you’ve seen the way Rising plays … no, attacks … the game. Fierce is the descriptive word that comes to mind. He hits the throttle hard when he steps on the field, smart enough to read defenses, talented enough to get the ball where it needs to go at the right time for the right reason, tough enough to tuck and run if his receivers are blanketed, charismatic enough to lead the Utes.

All of the above is written in the present tense, as though that’s the way it’s always been, always is, and always will be.

But I don’t know. Is that a fact?

As Utah coaches waited on Rising’s knee to heal, making it seem as though it was a foregone conclusion that he would return to action this season, everyone ignoring the usual truth that the kind of injury suffered by him typically takes a year or so to make whole again. As of Saturday night, when Kyle Whittingham announced that Rising would be out for the remainder of the season, it’d been just nine months and change since the ACL, the MCL, the ABCDEFGL, had been ruptured.

If we’d all been thinking clearly, instead of wondering — and asking him again and again and again and again, a thousand agains, when he’d be back under center — we would have known full well there was only a minuscule chance for his early return. We were not thinking clearly, and that cognitive jam-up was worsened by coaches who egged on the optimism, all to the hurting-and-healing quarterback’s detriment.

Rising, battling his own turbo-charged desire to play, should have been left in peace to tend to and restore and rehabilitate what had been ripped and ripped away from him.

Now he can do that, we all can do that.

And he can go on doing what he’s already been doing — considering his options without feeling as though he’s abandoned his mates, the ones who have suffered just one loss in seven games, despite an offense that had badly lurched in many of the outings. Everyone had wondered how good this Utah team would be with their leader restored to absolute command.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws the ball during halftime as the Utah Utes host the Florida Gators, NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.

The combination of a rousing win over USC, a contest that featured Ute highlights on both sides of the ball, aided as the attack was by backup quarterback Bryson Barnes’ stellar performance, a gutty showing that captured the country’s imagination and attention, and the postgame announcement by Whittingham regarding Rising relieved swelling pressure on Utah football like a pack of ice on a … well, wounded you-know-what.

Saturday’s result was a memorable one, all around, although more ice will be needed as the pressure builds again with Oregon heading into Rice-Eccles on Saturday and Washington waiting in the weeks ahead at Husky Stadium.

Meanwhile, Rising will decide what to do with his future. He would be a shoo-in for a medical redshirt, if he wants to return for another year at Utah. He turns 25 in May, so the clock is ticking rather loudly. He, like 99 percent of college football players, craves a shot at the NFL, but having missed this season now, even scouts who concentrated more on his strengths rather than his weaknesses need proof that physical liability is not one of those weaknesses. A healthy season in 2024, one in which Rising performed at his former level, would center his chances further between and away from fat and slim.

Moreover, the NIL situation at Utah has benefited Rising more than any other player. He has been the most recognized, the most marketable of all the Utes. And even with the year off, that status would not change. Staying at Utah instead of wading into the uncertainty of the NFL would be lucrative for him. Many of the college players around here who went on to the league have said they actually had more fun playing in college than in the pros.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) takes some snaps during warm-ups, before PAC-12 football action between the Utah Utes and the UCLA Bruins, at Rice-Eccles Stadium, on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023.

On the other hand, Rising’s body has been dinged and dashed through his college years, suffering multiple injuries that were anything but minor. Maybe he’s had enough of the bruising and battering and would prefer to pursue a different path.

It’s for him to decide. And whatever the gifted quarterback determines as his best move, Utah coaches should and will welcome it, coming or going. He isn’t just the most visible, most marketable Ute player in recent memory, he’s the most significant.

His personal highest hopes at Utah might not have been exceeded, but, come what may, what he has achieved is the equal of a great player. And great is good enough.