Inside the Program: Battle-hardened

<b>Senior OL Josh Oglesby is a starter for the Badgers despite enduring six knee surgeries.</b>

Senior OL Josh Oglesby is a starter for the Badgers despite enduring six knee surgeries.

Oct. 16, 2011

The official Gameday Program at each Badgers home game includes a profile of one of the athletes pictured on the program's cover. This feature is just one of the exclusive items available inside the program, which is available for purchase on game day at Camp Randall Stadium or online at NationalWClub.com. Today we look at senior offensive lineman Josh Oglesby, who was featured in the program for Saturday's game against Indiana. Purchase Gameday Programs

BY MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com

MADISON, Wis. -- Whenever Josh Oglesby is slow to get off the ground -- whenever the 6-foot-7, 330-pound UW offensive tackle is taking the boxing equivalent of a standing eight count, his mother can't bear to look.

"She says that she puts her head in her hands and just waits for the crowd (reaction)," he said.

The last thing Katherine Oglesby wants to hear is the sound of silence.

Or, a collective groan. After all, her son has endured six knee surgeries.

That includes tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right and left knee once each.

"She's seen enough of them," Josh Oglesby said with a big sigh.

"I would love to make sure she never has to see one again."

That's understandable. But understanding why Oglesby would continue playing a sport that has been so unforgiving -- knocking him down so many times -- is far more difficult to grasp for some people.

"Everyone usually has the same reaction, `Wow, six knee surgeries and you're still going out there?'" said Oglesby, a fifth-year senior from Milwaukee.

"I always tell them, `If it's what you love to do, you're going to keep doing it no matter what.' The six surgeries are what they are. The damage has been done."

You can only imagine what it's like for Oglesby to get out of bed on a Sunday morning following a football game the day or night before. Then, again, maybe you can't.

"Sunday mornings are kind of like being in a car wreck," he said. "My knees are pretty stiff and sore. It takes awhile to get them loosened up. But I don't think I'm the only one in the country like that."

Mike Lucas
MIKE LUCAS
UWBadgers.com Insider
mlucas@uwbadgers.com

ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, for one, had 20 knee surgeries during his 12-year NFL playing career with the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos.

"That's crazy," said Oglesby shaking his head. "That's a lot of blades, needles and scopes."

Surgery is one thing. What's the toughest single thing about the rehab process?

"Just the length of them; it gets kind of old," Oglesby said. "With the ACL's, it's being taken away from what you love to do -- playing football -- for pretty much a year.

"Not being able to go out there with friends and teammates is tough. These are the people that you've spent the most time with because you train all year to play the game."

When was the last time Oglesby was completely healthy?

"Completely healthy?" he asked -- repeating the question to ponder the answer.

"My junior year of high school," he replied, "before I tore my ACL the first time." That would be 2005 -- his junior year at St. Francis High School just outside of Milwaukee. As a prep senior, Oglesby was rated the No. 1 offensive tackle in the nation, but played in just four games before tearing the ACL in his right knee.

In April of 2006, Oglesby had verbally committed to Wisconsin.  He was the No. 1 O-lineman in the nation and the second member of the 2007 recruiting class joining Middleton receiver Nick Toon.

As UW freshmen, Oglesby and Toon redshirted and roomed together.

In 2008 as a redshirt freshman, Oglesby saw his first playing time for the Badgers -- at both right and left tackle -- because of injuries to Gabe Carimi and Eric Vanden Huevel.

In 2009, Oglesby won the starting job at right tackle and held down that spot until injuring his knee and missing the final three games of the regular season. He made it back for the Champs Sports Bowl.

Oglesby, in fact, played so well in Wisconsin's win over the Miami Hurricanes that he was counting on the momentum to carry over into the 2010 season.

But it didn't quite work out the way he had planned or hoped. Oglesby partially tore the ACL in his left knee in the season opener against UNLV and attempted to play through the pain and injury.

Oglesby started once more -- the second game of the season against San Jose State -- before moving aside for Ricky Wagner who took over as the starter at right tackle.

The knee got progressively worse and Oglesby missed the final six games. That resulted in another surgery and another spring rehabbing from the surgery.

So when was the last time Oglesby felt really healthy, if not completely healthy?

"I felt great against Nebraska," he said. "The week off really helped; it paid dividends."

Oglesby didn't play against South Dakota after injuring his knee in the Sept. 17 game against Northern Illinois in Chicago. Kat Oglesby couldn't bear to look. This one put a scare into Josh, too.

"That was really tough on me -- I was thinking about this being my senior year and not having another chance to play (for the Badgers)," Oglesby said. "Thank-God, it was only what it was."

The MRI showed that Oglesby had sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

"For me, it's just like an ankle sprain," he said of the MCL diagnosis. "I was really thankful."

Despite playing as well as he did in the Big Ten opener against Nebraska, the bye in Wisconsin's schedule last Saturday could not have come at a better time.

Oglesby said the most important thing was "just having the chance to calm the knee down again after coming back off the MCL in five days" to play against the Cornhuskers.

"I was able to get more rest -- and with the state of my knees -- rest is the key," he said. "I was able to perform pretty well with that week off against South Dakota."

Asked to elaborate on the state of his knees, he said, "I've learned to deal with the little aches and pains. The coaches were OK with me resting it -- taking my word for how my knee was feeling."

Are there any assurances that he won't do permanent damage to himself?

"There are no guarantees," he said. "My knees could always get worse. As of right now, they're holding up well. The doctors and trainers are adamant about making sure everything is still status quo."

During the team's bye week last Saturday, Oglesby was scheduled for another round of treatments on his knee in the McClain Center training room. But there was also an opportunity to watch others play.

"I sat back and was a fan of college football," Oglesby said.

More and more fans are seemingly jumping aboard the Badgers' bandwagon. Even Sports Illustrated got into the act recently by devoting a feature article to the offensive line.

"It's pretty cool for us to get some recognition," Oglesby said.

The spotlight is becoming a part of the routine thanks to quarterback Russell Wilson.

"He's a great player, a great guy and a great friend," Oglesby said. "He's been to the next level -- granted in a different sport (professional baseball) -- and he's seen the other side of things.

"He just takes command in the huddle, and on the field."

Oglesby was reminded of something that he said to a reporter after committing to Wisconsin. Oglesby mentioned how the 2007 recruiting class would steer the Badgers to a national championship.

"That was just the ramblings of a 16-year-old kid who was a little too full of himself," he said.

Nonetheless, the Badgers still have the makings of a very special season.

Not that anyone will take anything for granted, especially with the 1-and-0 mentality.

"It's what is preached to us every day," Oglesby said. "We have to take every day the same, every practice the same and every game the same. You have to block everything else out.

"It's never as good as it seems. It's never as bad as it seems."

He has been saying the same things about his knees for years.

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