Since going down because of a left foot injury one quarter into the 2008 season, here is what Kansas University receiver Dexton Fields has missed out on: a pass-happy offensive attack that has allowed a.) a true freshman to finish a game with 130 yards and two touchdowns receiving, b.) a former college quarterback to become the nation's leader in receptions per game, and c.) four different Jayhawks receivers to notch 120 or more receiving yards in a game.
So Saturday, when the Jayhawks head to Iowa State for their first Big 12 game of the season, a now-healthy Fields - who with one catch for negative-three yards has yet to wet his proverbial beak - will look to get in on the action.
"I took a pretty hard fall," said a smiling Fields on Tuesday, the first time the 6-foot Dallas native has been made available since his injury, "but I'm back now."
Fields - who led the Jayhawks in receptions in each of the past two seasons - sported a large protective boot on his left foot. But Kansas coach Mark Mangino said he expects Fields, along with injured cornerback Kendrick Harper, to contribute in the first stage of what proves to be a long and difficult conference schedule.
And it comes against a foe with whom Fields is quite familiar. Last season, he caught 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns in helping Kansas top Iowa State, 45-7. As a freshman in 2005, meanwhile, he made his first career touchdown catch against the Cyclones with 1:05 left in regulation in the Jayhawks' final regular-season game.
The touchdown tied the game at 21 and forced overtime, which set up Scott Webb's 34-yard game-winning field goal. The victory moved the Jayhawks to 6-5 on the year, earning them a spot in the Fort Worth Bowl, which they won, 42-13, over Houston. It marked Kansas' first bowl victory under Mangino.
So, yeah, Fields has done pretty decent against Iowa State.
This time around, though, Fields will be happy just to be on the field. The foot marked the first significant injury in Fields' highly successful Kansas career - unless, of course, you count a dislocated finger against Oklahoma State in 2006, which he doesn't.
"It was just my pinkie finger," he says. (He returned later in the game to catch an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kerry Meier).
The foot injury, however, proved a bit more difficult to overcome. Fields missed three games total, including a 37-34 heartbreaker against South Florida that dropped the Jayhawks to 2-1 overall. In the interim, Fields worked to get back into the lineup while Mangino grumbled about the lack of blocking from his young receivers - an area in which Fields excels.
"I had to stay patient with it because I didn't want to injure it more or put any extra stress on it," said Fields, who was originally hoping to return for the Jayhawks' Sept. 20 game against Sam Houston State. "But then again, I was trying to get into the training room every chance I could to get some treatment and get it better."
And while various playmaking threats have emerged in his absence - from Meier (389 yards, one touchdown) to Dezmon Briscoe (361, five) to Johnathan Wilson (307, two) - Fields returns as the most consistent threat in one of the conference's deepest receiving corps.
"He's the type of guy that flies a little bit under the radar," said offensive coordinator Ed Warinner. "But he's a consistent blocker, he's a consistent pass-catcher, he's played a lot of football games. ... Getting him back can only help us."