Broken, but not Fractured

Broken, but not Fractured

Although tearing his ACL and unable to play in his home state, freshman Aaron Henry knows the worst is already behind and that the good Lord has a plan for him.

TAMPA, Fla. – When Aaron Henry found out the Wisconsin Badgers were heading to Tampa and the Outback Bowl, the freshman cornerback could hardly contain his glee.

Hailing from Immokalee, Florida (about 160 miles south of Tampa), Henry was looking to put a bow on an outstanding freshman season.

Playing in all 12 games, mostly on special teams and as the Badgers starting nickel cornerback, Henry was forced to start at corner the last two games of the season when starter Allen Langford went down with a knee injury.

Henry filled in admirably for Langford, setting a career-high with six tackles against Minnesota and finished fourth on the team with 3.5 sacks, which is the most in school history for a defensive back. His effort netted Henry honorable mention freshman All-American honors and was a first-team freshman All-Big Ten choice by the Sporting News.

Now, he would be starting in front of dozens of family and friends in his home state.

Just like Langford, however, Henry was stricken with the same serious injury bug.

During bowl preparation three weeks ago, Henry suffered a torn right ACL during a simple non-contact drill, an injury UW coach Bret Bielema called, ‘a freak injury.'

"You really can't prepare for an injury because you don't know when it is going to come," Henry said.

According to Henry, the injury happened when wide receiver Paul Hubbard caught a comeback route in the center of the field. On the catch, Henry broke in but couldn't avoid an entanglement between Hubbard and safety Aubrey Pleasant. Trying to avoid the pile, Henry jumped over the heap, but his right foot dug into the ground, causing his knee to twist awkwardly above him.

"I felt it pop, but I didn't think it was serious," Henry said. "I have never had a serious injury in my life, so I didn't know what to expect."

After a MRI revealed that Henry indeed had a torn ACL, he was scheduled for surgery on Friday, December 21.

Although the surgery successfully repaired the tear, the pain medication Henry was given after the surgery did not react well with his body and did not eliminate his pain.

"Those first three, four days were the worst in my life," Henry recalled. "Physically, my body was in pain, I didn't want to be bothered, I was angry, I was aggravated and I didn't want to see anybody. I was supposed to leave the next day but the pain was unbearable."

One week later, on the other hand, Henry is doing better. On crutches with an immobilizer on his knee, Henry watches practice from the comforts of a shaded golf cart and, when he uses the crutches, walks very gingerly.

"I will never take for granted walking, getting out of bed or the little things we take for granted in our life," Henry said. "Once you get an injury like this, all of that can be taken away from you."

Despite the accolades he received and the things he accomplished in just his first year playing collegiate football, including intercepting a pass in his first Badger game, Henry knows he can do better when he retakes the field.

"I am proud of myself to a certain extent but I also feel like I can do better," he said. "It was a pretty good freshman year but it always could be better."

Moreover, his injury will be the thing he will always remember from the 2007 season.

"Not to take away from all the other things, but the injury has been the most memorable because I have had to deal with everything that comes with it," he said. "This is my first major injury in my life and hopefully my last. You always have pains here or there, but it is nothing like a knee injury."

According to Bielema, Henry won't participate in Spring Practice as he continues to rehabilitate his knee, but is expected to return in August in preparation for the season.

"I don't want to get back too fast and mess it up again, but I want to be out there playing with those guys," Henry said. "I want to get back healthy and as fast as I can, however long it takes."

Henry, who isn't afraid to talk about his faith and probably wears Christian wristbands, noted he was trusting God to lead him on the road to recovery.

"What doesn't kill makes you stronger," Henry said. "Everything happens for a reason and I believe God has a bigger plan for me.

"I don't see it right now but who knows," he added. "I may come back and do some great things after an ACL repair."

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