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Mike Tepper, Cal football player who had his leg run over twice this weekend.
BERKELEY — A University of California, Berkeley football player lauded for his athleticism and toughness is recovering from ankle surgery after being run over twice by a car on Telegraph Avenue over the weekend.

Doctors inserted nine screws and a metal plate into Mike Tepper's ankle Tuesday. The 19-year-old offensive lineman had gotten into a confrontation with a carload of men who police say backed over his leg, then put the car into drive and crushed it again.

Tepper, who is on a full football scholarship, sustained a broken fibula, ligament damage and dislocated tibia. Tepper said he will be off the football field until at least early next year.

The melee early Sunday happened after the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Tepper tried to protect a female friend from a group of catcalling men who were attempting to lure her to drink and party with them, authorities said.

Tepper, a top recruit last year as an offensive tackle, was red-shirted in the fall but projected to be a primary backup player with a solid chance of starting in 2006.

Now doctors say Tepper can't run until November at the earliest and must not get on the practice field until early 2006. He will wear a cast for up to eight weeks, Tepper said.

"They are expecting a 100 percent recovery," he said Wednesday. "But it just sucks that I'm losing something that I love — a season of football.


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Police released few details about the case because it remains under investigation, and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office could press charges.

But Berkeley police spokesman Joe Okies did confirm the arrest of three men in connection with the Sunday morning incident. The men fled Telegraph to College Avenue and Parker Street, where they crashed their car into a parked car, Okies said. Three of the four men inside left the scene, Okies said.

Officers caught up with the men and arrested Johnny Ray Smith, 33, of Berkeley on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, property damage, resisting arrest and a parole violation that will send him back toprison, police said.

Also arrested were Calvin Joe Kelley, 29, of Oakland on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, property damage, resisting arrest and a probation violation. Scott Slaughter, 28, of Berkeley, was arrested and accused of resisting arrest, police said. The men were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

At this point it is not clear what will happen to Tepper's Cal football career or his hopes for the NFL.

Football coach Jeff Tedford last year praised Tepper, who is from Cypress, in Orange County, saying he has "tremendous athleticism for his size, toughness, and is a great pass protector."

In a statement issued Wednesday through a Cal athletic representative, Tedford said that although it was an unfortunate incident, "we are proud of the courage Mike showed Saturday night."

"We are looking forward to him returning to the team," Tedford said. "He is a quality young man, and we expect him to make solid contributions for us."

Tepper said he hopes to be granted a "medical red-shirt," which would make him eligible to play football four more years. But for now he is recovering and trying not to dwell on the incident.

In a telephone interview from his Berkeley home Wednesday, Tepper said he was crossing Telegraph at Dwight Way about 1:30 a.m. Sunday when the men in the car began yelling at his 22-year-old friend, a Cal women's volleyball player.

The woman, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, said she wasn't interested and kept walking in the crosswalk, Tepper recalled.

"She then began to try and walk by the car, but the driver stepped on the gas and moved directly in front of us at the crosswalk," Tepper said in an Internet account of the incident. "At this point, I was standing next to the passenger side door, I could literally stick my hand out and touch the passenger's face at this distance, possibly 2 feet back at most."

The men continued trying to lure the woman to party with them, Tepper said.

Then he heard the driver put the car into reverse, Tepper said, so he grabbed the woman and pushed her to the ground and out of car's path.

In falling, Tepper said his right leg got caught in the front right tire, and he was thrown at least 8 feet, landing on his face.

Tepper said he then looked to his right to see the car coming toward him.

"I was a speed bump for this car burning out," he said.

Tepper was still on the ground when nearby police arrived, and he was rushed by ambulance to a Berkeley hospital. Tepper said it took a doctor and two emergency room nurses 11/2 hours to stop the bleeding from the leg. Because he weighs 320 pounds, Tepper said he was pumped with three times the normal amount of morphine and painkillers. On Wednesday he said he was "doing all right."

His father took a different stand.

"I'm a little outraged," said Gus Tepper. "I think it's terrible that this happens at the premier university in the country. I'm happy that he doesn't appear to be traumatized and happy that he got the girl out of the way."

The elder Tepper said he is proud of his son, calling him a hero.

"It's a sad story, but I think he saved a life."