MADISON - Before tearing his ACL midway through the season last fall, Mike Taylor was on pace to contend for many postseason awards. He was making that big of an impact on the field during his first season following a redshirt.
However, all that suddenly changed with one unfortunate bend of the knee and Taylor had to suffer through the trials of seeing a season cut short. Now, as his team practices in spring camp, Taylor is focused on rehabbing his knee in an attempt to get back for summer conditioning.
At the conclusion of a recent practice, BadgerBlitz.com caught up with the sophomore linebacker. The following is a question and answer with Taylor.
How are things going for you? How is the rehab and everything going?
Taylor: The rehab is going pretty good. The first month was pretty bad because I was in a brace for the first month on crutches. That's just so hard to do, even waking up getting out of bed and going through pain everyday. But the next few months after that, I was slowly getting my motion back and my extension and flexibility and strength. That's what I'm doing right now, working on strength. I'm still stretching it.
It's going pretty well. I don't have a lot of pain and I'm able to run. I was running some cross-fields today at three-quarters speed probably. But there is still a lot of improvement to do like getting back used to running. That's basically the thing I've got to do.
Did it kind of turn your world upside down? When you go through such a devastating injury like that as a guy that's so active and you're used to doing everything. Suddenly you can't do anything like that.
Taylor: Yeah, like I said, when it happened on the field you hear something pop and feel something pop. You're just laying there and you're thinking, 'What is it?' because you're in pain. I know my body pretty well, when that happened I knew something was wrong right away.
It wasn't as much of a physical pain that I was feeling as much as thinking this could be something like a really bad injury. Just thinking about that was the worst thing. Just thinking about what happened and then finding out it's a torn ACL, nobody wants to hear it's a torn ACL because that's a long road back.
Rehab is going good and I'm on the road to recovery. Hopefully I'll be back for the fall.
I know you can't project the future and can't predict that type of stuff, but from your sense with the way things have gone, do you think you'll be mentally prepared when you're able to go back and have full contact and everything?
Taylor: I hope so. I really don't know. Even doing rehab, if the trainers want me to do something and I say, I'm not sure I can do that. I know I went to do a test on my knee and we had to do a single leg vertical and I wasn't comfortable landing on one leg yet. But time will tell. Each day it gets better. Culmer St. Jean went through it and some other guys went through it and they're telling me it will get better. I just have to stay positive, keep doing rehab and hopefully that will come.
Are you able to do any side to side movement or is it just straight forward?
Taylor: I've been doing some side to side. Even before, I'd say about a month ago, I was doing some side-to-side stuff. I'd say before I get rolling and back to full recovery, I've just got to work on my strength and to help support the joint and just help to support all the running and movements.
Does coach Ben Herbert have a set program for you specifically? Just for you and your rehab?
Taylor: I got with Herb and we're doing some prowler workouts, like pushing a sled basically. Both lightweight and pushing it around the field to work on both legs. You know, it kind of works your whole leg and gets you back to the formality a little bit. He's setting that all up.
What's the prognosis? Are you going to be good to go in summer workouts and fall camp?
Taylor: That's the plan, to be back by summer. That's like what, two months away? I'm at five months right now, so two more months I feel like I should be ready to go.
Obviously when you have such a long layoff you'll come back and probably have some rust. Is there anyway you can prevent that kind of stuff and maybe smooth the transition a little bit?
Taylor: Yeah, even though I'm not practicing I'm just taking mental reps and watching film. I'm listening to coach. I kind of went through this before with the neck surgery and the hamstring thing. I've kind of been here before but I kind of haven't been just because it's such a big injury. But yeah, I've been working at it and watching film and having mental reps.
Can you walk through that play again, do you remember everything that happened?
Taylor: Yeah, it was a lead play. Their fullback came out. It was actually a play where O'Brien Schofield was cutting inside and I replace him and go outside. So when I came outside I was actually a little bit wide so the guy came in from inside out. I was running out wide, probably wider than I should have been. When I saw the fullback a little inside of me I came back in. I planted on my right leg, I kind of leaned in, and as soon as I got hit I don't know if my leg was completely set. But he hit me and I set and it just went back over.
So you knew immediately it was not good?
Taylor: Yeah, I knew something was really bad.
Obviously from your point of view this spring when you're not practicing, have you been able to see some improvement at the linebacker position. You guys are getting some good depth work right now.
Taylor: Kevin Claxton, he's been coming along real well going from safety to linebacker. That's probably a little more difficult to be coming in. He's made a lot of plays and to do that is good to see. Kevin Rouse is coming along good. He's had his problems and all that but he's looking pretty good out here.
Culmer is doing his thing and he's always been pretty stout. Blake Sorensen is moving all over. He'll do whatever you want him to do. Everybody is doing pretty good.
When you have you and Chris Borland out, two guys that have played pretty big roles during the year last year, and you have guys coming in when you're injured and they're picking up the slack, what does that say to you at that position?
Taylor: It says we better get back soon so we can doing some business too. I'm getting kind of nervous watching these guys and not playing. But it's just good to see those guys doing their things. You can rely on them to be in there if someone goes down. It's just good to see.
I know your season was cut short, but have you been able to sit back and appreciate what you and Borland were accomplishing last year as freshmen?
Taylor: I never really thought about it. Just like that your season is over and you're thinking about your injury. But looking back, with the first playing time, I thought I did all right and Borland did pretty good freshmen year. But I had a lot more goals than that. For that to happen, I felt really bad. Hopefully I can come back and hopefully just keep going.
You kind of turn a bad thing into a positive, motivating factor?
Taylor: Yeah, just thinking about it and all the things you go through with an ACL surgery, it kind of gets you ready mentally to know that you can do anything. It kind of drives me to think that I might not be able to do everything now, but when I get back and work harder and try to get back to the way I was. Hopefully I'll be better than what I was before.
Is there any concern that when you do get back that you're maybe going to try to do too many things too fast?
Taylor: Probably, but I think the coaches will probably watch and make sure I'm not doing too much. The trainers will probably watch and make sure I'm not over doing it.
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