MADISON - There are few times in life when a couple of torn labrums can bring two people closer together.
Such is the case with juniors Shane Carter and Aubrey Pleasant, who have gone through tremendous highs and lows throughout their Wisconsin football career.
A season ago, both looked to be on track to be solid backups to Joe Stellmacher and Roderick Rogers in the Badgers’ secondary. Within a blink of an eye, both were on the fast track to the trainer’s room and hours of rehabilitation.
One year later, both are on track to make life miserable for opposing offenses.
For Carter, the injury was a huge disappointment. Earning his first letter in 2005, Carter looked poised to make a big impact as the No.2 free safety. Unfortunately for Carter, all his success came to an end during the early portion of the non-conference season when the then-sophomore’s left labrum – made of a thick tissue near the shoulder joint – tore due to a prior injury.
Suddenly, Carter was forced to miss the rest of the season, putting his status for the following 2007 season in question.
“It was definitely a disappointment and obviously, having an injury was the downer, too,” Carter said. “The fact that I needed surgery and everything made it a long process.”
For Pleasant, tearing his labrum had become an ugly routine.
After Wisconsin had won its first Capital One Bowl, Pleasant tore his labrum the first time in post-season workouts. A summer of rehabbing and conditioning seemed to pay off in the fall of 2006, where, just like Carter, Pleasant looked to be the unquestioned No.2 strong safety entering fall. A few days into camp, Pleasant re-injured his shoulder and was put on the shelf for a second time, joining Shane on the redshirt list.
“It really was that frustrating because the surgery needed to be done,” Pleasant said. “I needed the year for my body and shoulder to fully recover. It was definitely difficult mentally because I played and traveled in big games with the team. That was something very exciting for a true freshman [to play] and then watching my friends have the season they had last year was difficult for me because I couldn’t be out there with them.”
Suddenly, two promising stars were forced to sit and watch their friends set program and school records. But in misery, the two found comfort in each other.
The Road Back
Instead of going through the injury rehab and disappointment alone, Carter and Pleasant sound solace in each other.
The two attended weight training together, condition together, went to meetings and watched film together. Whenever one was down, depressed or let the injury get the better of them, the other one was there to encourage the other and pick him up off the floor.
“It was good to have someone else to have someone else to do the rehab with,” Carter said. “We spent a lot of time with light weights and stretching to get the muscles back to normal. It made life easier to battle back with [Aubrey] and it motivated both of us to get back on the field.”
Through the injury, a tight friendship molded as well, as the two DBs learned things about one another they would never have known otherwise.
“Shane and I play the same position, live on the same floor in the Regent and have a lot of similarities,” Pleasant said. “We both sat on the sidelines together, report to meetings together and while everybody is at practice, we were at home. Now, Shane, me, Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy are roommates and buds. The bond is definitely there.
“It made the process for both of us a lot easier because you have someone to do [the rehab] with,” Pleasant added. “At the same time, we can in to do rehab together. Naturally, we clicked.”
Back and Anxious
After a year recouping and motivating one another, Carter and Pleasant will get their chances to make up for last year’s personal loss when Bielema named the friends the UW’s two starting safeties. Now both redshirt sophomores, the revamped duo will get three years to roam the Wisconsin secondary; a thought that is exciting some of their teammates.
“They are both real anxious to get out there and make up for the last year that they missed,” Langford said. “Their intensity level is real high right now because they want to get out there and smart making plays. Shane is a great athlete with great range and is a big till physical guy. Aubrey is very athletic and you need to be able to run to the football if you’re a strong safety. They both bring unique talents to the game and our defense.”
Battling back through injury and disappointment is now in the past for both Carter and Pleasant. Spending countless hours in the film room studying themselves and ways to get better, head coach Bret Bielema knows that their dedication to the position is there.
“I don’t think that there are any two guys that are more committed to playing football in a positive fashion than Aubrey and Shane,” Bielema said. “After our scrimmage, I got a quick workout and lunch and by the time I got back, they were already watching film. They beat the coaches to the film, which is a good indication on what it means to them.”
Friends off and on the field, Shane Carter and Aubrey Pleasant have developed a strong bond and chemistry that they expect will translate into becoming playmakers on game day. With two healthy shoulders and strong work ethics, both Carter and Pleasant won’t be pleased unless the job is done right and done together as friends and teammates.
“Working hard and improving everyday is going to get us where we need to be,” Carter said. “We’re all in this together. It’s about ultimately winning and doing the best you can.”
“I’m out there playing with all my boys and if I mess up, I am not looking at a teammate, I am looking at my roommate,” Pleasant said. “If I’m out there, I want Shane out there because we work the best together.”