COLUMBIA — Will Ebner first attempted to go to sleep at 2:30 a.m. last Sunday morning.
Hours earlier, his team upset Oklahoma, the No. 1 team in the BCS rankings, so he had a lot to think about. But that wasn’t what kept Ebner awake.
No. 7 Missouri Tigers (7-0, 3-0 Big 12)
at No. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-1, 2-1 Big 12)
WHEN: 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, KCMQ/96.7 FM
TV: ABC Sports
SERIES: Nebraska leads 64-36-3, but Missouri has won three of the past five games.
It was nearly five hours before his mind could ignore the throbbing pain in his left foot.
For several weeks Ebner has dealt with an injury that sounds less painful than it feels. The junior linebacker has a dancer’s fracture.
“Basically on the fifth metatarsal, which is the bone that goes to the pinky toe, on the base of it, there’s just a chunk of the bone that is chipped off and kind of floating on the edge of my foot,” Ebner said.
And it hurts. A lot.
Just before 5 p.m. on Monday, Ebner hobbled into the Missouri Athletics Training complex. He limped on the clunky walking boot that he wears whenever he is not playing football.
The stocky linebacker known for his big hits looked drained as he cringed with each step.
“Ever since I was a kid — I have two older brothers — my mom always told me that my older brothers can go without getting a full night of sleep, but I can’t,” Ebner said. “She’s always told me that. Even when I’m not injured, she’s on me ‘Go to bed early. Go to bed early.’”
Now it doesn’t matter what time Ebner goes to bed, because it takes him so long to fall asleep.
“She took it kind of rough at the start, especially because it’s pretty hard for me to sleep at night,” Ebner said. “I wake up with a throbbing foot. She knows about that.”
And the pain doesn’t stop.
“It does hurt. Pretty much all day long,” Ebner said. “At random times it will just start throbbing. Some days it will feel better than others. Just kind of wake up and never know what you’re going to get.”
At this point, Ebner really can’t imagine life without pain.
“Football, especially at this level, you got to play with pain,” he said. “I think one of the reasons I’ve been able to do it is because there hasn’t been a season yet that I haven’t had a surgery or hurt something. My freshman year, I tore my labrum and played with it. Last year, I had midseason knee surgery.”
The one time Ebner manages to forget about the chipped bone floating around his foot is when he is playing football. The adrenaline helps dull the pain.
That isn't going to help at bedtime, though.