UNLV tailback David Peeples knew immediately something was wrong with his left shoulder.
He caught a backward pass in a spring 2006 practice drill, put his left arm on the ground and felt a pop.
Peeples didn't leave practice and showed up for the next one, too, despite a cartilage tear in the shoulder.
He could have opted for surgery, but Peeples would have missed the 2006 season.
He chose to play through the pain and worked hard last summer to regain strength in the shoulder. He wore a shoulder harness on game days, and opponents were unaware of the seriousness of his injury.
"Show no weakness," Peeples said. "Weakness gets you hurt."
Peeples' statistics didn't shine, but he contributed and became the starting tailback over the final five games.
"The kid is a tough kid," running backs coach Reggie Davis said. "Every time he was making contact or falling on the ground, he was feeling a little something."
The Cheyenne High School product finished with 519 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. While the 5-foot-9-inch, 205-pound Peeples proved he had breakaway ability -- rushing for 106 yards against UNR and 95 against Air Force -- he struggled in short yardage.
The Rebels brought in former junior college All-American Frank Summers to fill that need. But the 5-10, 240-pound Summers is being counted on to do more than just pick up 2 tough yards.
He appears to be the leading the candidate to start at tailback when the Rebels begin the season Aug. 30 at Utah State, especially because Peeples has been out with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Peeples had a walking boot removed Thursday. Trainer Kyle Wilson said he would be eased back before resuming normal workouts next week.
It's not the ideal way to win a position, but it doesn't appear to have banished Peeples to a backup role.
"We have to see where David is as far as his recovery goes, see what his speed is like when he comes back," Davis said. "I know how hard the kid works. I believe when he comes back, with his work ethic, he'll eventually get back to where he was. It obviously will take time.
"When he's back to full strength, who knows who will start week to week."
Summers didn't sign with UNLV to stand on the sideline, and Peeples didn't take over the starting job just to give it back.
"(Signing Summers) fired me up, but it's all for the betterment of the team," Peeples said. "It really doesn't matter to me because all I want to do here is win. When he came in, it just made me work harder."
• NOTES -- UNLV awarded scholarships to redshirt freshman offensive lineman Mike Donato, junior quarterback Dack Ishii, sophomore long snapper Kamu Kapanui and sophomore defensive backs Marquel Martin and Ryan Tillman. Donato is an Eldorado High product. ... The Rebels leave for camp in Ely today and return Aug. 21.