Wojta still snaps, despite 'pop' in knee

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Running downfield to cover a punt during Tuesday's practice, Kyle Wojta, the UW long snapper, felt something that every athlete fears.

"I felt two pops in my knee," he said.

While planting his foot to make a cut, Wojta tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

"Watching the film, I was grabbing my knee before I hit the ground," he said. "It was a bad feeling; something that I had never felt before."

With his knee wrapped, Wojta spent the rest of the practice on a training table adjacent to the east stands in Camp Randall Stadium.

"Since I knew it was a torn ACL, I thought my season was over," said Wojta, a junior from Madison La Follette, and a former walk-on who was put on scholarship this fall.

"I was pretty upset because it's such a helpless feeling. You've worked so hard to get where you are to earn a starting job and, then, all of a sudden, it's all taken away from you."

During one interlude in practice, UW coach Bret Bielema shared his own experiences with Wojta, who was recognized as the Scout Team Player of the Week following the Minnesota win.

"He came over and said, 'How did it feel? Let me guess, it burned for about 30 seconds really bad,'" Wojta said. "He had played on a torn ACL at D-tackle, which is amazing in itself.

"At that point, I had already made by decision. We didn't know for sure if I had done anything else to my knee, but if they gave me the clearance to play with a torn ACL, I was going to do it.

"I asked coach, 'Will you allow me to do it?" He said, 'Of course.'"

An MRI showed that there was no other structural damage to the knee. And since the defense, by rule, is not allowed to make direct contact with the snapper in a scrimmage kick formation immediately following the snap, Wojta received clearance to play against Ohio State.

So that was the plan. Wojta would continue to be the snapper for extra points and field goals. But since he would be a liability running down the field, the Badgers turned to a true freshman, James McGuire from St. Paul, Minn., (Cretin-Derham Hall), to handle the long snapping for punts.

Before Saturday night's kickoff, Wojta had 40 milliliters of blood drained from his knee.

"I'm not going to say it doesn't hurt because obviously it does," Wojta, who will delay having surgery until after the season is over, said. "But it's not going to get any worse as long as I'm not making any cuts on it and blowing out any of the other ligaments. I was trying to convince them to let me do the punt long snapping, too, but my running isn't exactly up to par.

"Besides, they made the right decision by putting James (McGuire) into the game. I just kept telling him, 'You're a great long snapper, you've done it a million times, you'll be fine.'

"He did a great job, too. I'm proud of that kid for stepping up in a game like that."

Funny how that works. Bielema said the very same thing about Kyle Wojta after the Badgers knocked off the No. 1 ranked Buckeyes.

"He was not going to be denied," Bielema said.

Neither were the Badgers on this night.

2 Comments

Thanks for writing this story, Mike. Way to go Kyle! You and your Badger football teammates are an inspiration to Badger fans everywhere.

On Wisconsin!

Where does the Ohio St game rank in your most exciting games in Camp Randall history?