Badgers FB Watt learning, teaching teammates while out injured

Badgers fullback Derek Watt broke his right ankle on the first kick return of the second half during Wisconsin's season opener against LSU on Aug. 30

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

MADISON, Wis. — In some respects, Derek Watt’s football knowledge has increased over the past month. He has watched Wisconsin’s home games high above Camp Randall Stadium from the team offices, taken an elevator down toward the team locker room and imparted wisdom of what he’s seen to the other fullbacks at halftime.

"It is a different perspective seeing the whole field from different angles," Watt said. "It’s I guess just like being fan. I’d rather not have that perspective."

Watt is trying to make the most of his time away from the field as he rehabs a broken right foot. The injury took place on the first kick return of the second half during Wisconsin’s season opener against LSU on Aug. 30, and it is expected to keep him out until at least early November. At minimum, he’ll miss six games and perhaps even more.

For Watt, a redshirt junior who has never sustained a significant football injury, the waiting game has been frustrating.

"I’d like to just get back as soon as possible," Watt said. "I really don’t know what day. Just kind of got to see how the bone is healing. I can’t necessarily control how the bone heals. I’ve got to wait and see what the X-rays looks like. If my bone’s not healing, my bone’s not healing. I’m just doing as much as possible on my part."

Watt’s talent and football IQ made him a standout fullback for the Badgers. And his toughness didn’t hurt either — Watt only told trainers he needed orthodics for his shoe after sustaining the broken foot and played the rest of the LSU game.

He was such a versatile player that coaches had planned before the season for him to line up in various positions, such as tight end. But his absence, coupled with an injury to backup fullback Derek Straus, led to redshirt freshman Austin Ramesh stepping in to start at fullback.

Watt watched every down Ramesh played during home games against Western Illinois, Bowling Green and South Florida. And at halftime, he would tell Ramesh both the good and bad of what he saw. In addition to his blocking duties, Ramesh also has caught three passes for 18 yards with a touchdown.

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"I think the biggest thing was he had to learn that it’s not going to be exactly like we do in practice," Watt said. "They game plan just like we do to stop us. And they’re on scholarship, so they’re going to be good and try to make plays.

"You’ve got to be able to not let it get to your head, you’ve got to be able to make adjustments. That’s a big part of playing fullback is adjusting to different line movement and different play calls that you may not have seen before."

Watt spent the first month after his injury walking on crutches, though he has since ditched them and needs only a protective boot. His parents, John and Connie, stayed in Madison and drove him around. Now, he uses his moped to get places on campus.

There is only so much Watt can do for rehab because of the broken bone. He receives electric muscle stimulation from trainers, takes vitamin D pills, works on ankle mobility drills and runs in a pool as part of anti-gravity training.

If all goes well, Watt hopes he can play in some of the team’s most significant games of the season. Wisconsin’s final three November games against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota could go a long way toward deciding the Big Ten West race.

"I’m getting more progress every day," Watt said. "I’m just kind of doing whatever they tell me to down there and trying to just push it to get myself back as soon as possible but at the same time not being dumb about it. I’m not trying to reinjure it by any means. Just taking it day by day and seeing how it feels. Trying to make as much progress as possible as fast as possible."

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