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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 02 2013

Injured players Perry, Heagle support Bison from sidelines

FRISCO, Texas – They were among the last group of players to leave a practice field adjacent to FC Dallas Stadium on Wednesday, but probably not by choice. Leevon Perry and Colten Heagle would love to be running out of the stadium tunnel on Saturday afternoon.

Instead, they are in the midst of rehabilitating knee injuries that ended the seasons of two of NDSU’s brightest defensive stars. Heagle, a strong safety, has been out since an ACL tear the second game of the season at Colorado State. Perry, a nose guard, had microfracture surgery and addressed a meniscus problem in his knee.

Wednesday was his first day off of crutches, so at least he was able to walk to the NDSU team plane that flew to Dallas.

“It’s bittersweet being here,” Perry said. “Bitter because I can’t play, but it’s always nice to support my guys and see how they do.”

The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Perry said he is on target for full-speed workouts next summer.

“I was off of it for six weeks,” he said. “Let the cartilage come back, and I should be good to go in the long run. I plan on playing football for a while, so I want to make sure I’m good to go.”

Perry said he’s taking it step by step, with the goal of making a difference his senior year next season. And then who knows after that.

It was a fear that football was over not long after he went down in the regular-season game against South Dakota State.

“I’m not going to lie. When it first happened and I heard that initial pop, I went through the whole, ‘What if it doesn’t heal right?’ ” Perry said. “What am I going to do? I’m too big to bag groceries-type-of-thing. I’m so glad my family stuck with me and my friends stay with me and let me know it’s going to be alright.”

Perry had six tackles for lost yardage, two quarterback sacks, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble in his 10 games, of which actually was nine full games because he was hurt in the first half of the SDSU game.

Heagle was a Missouri Valley Football Conference second-team selection as a sophomore and had the makings of being a first-teamer this year.

He said his rehabilitation is going well and he has hopes of playing in some fashion during spring football. He expects to begin running in the next couple of weeks.

“Next year I should be by far 100 percent,” Heagle said.

The role this week, however, is to be 100 percent role players. Both attend practice and meetings and aren’t shy about pointing out anything that needs to be fixed.

“Getting here one time is hard enough,” Heagle said. “But two in a row is a difficult task, and I’m just going to be a good teammate and get behind everybody.”

Perry said the Frisco experience can get overwhelming, so his advice to the younger players in his position group like freshman Brian Schaetz is to calm down and remember football is just a game.

“It’s frustrating watching practice,” Perry said. “It’s frustrating going into meetings and seeing things guys mess up on and you could be out there making a difference. But hopefully through my experiences I can help them out.”


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia