Jeff Kolpack, Published August 06 2013
Bison safety Heagle ready to play after serious knee injury last season
After missing almost all of last season, the junior is back doing what he does best: play defense for North Dakota State. The knee? It’s so 100 percent, he said, that it’s not even an issue.
“No limitations or anything,” he said. “I probably could have did spring football if I really had to. Just making sure it came back 100 percent was the biggest thing.”
Heagle tore his ACL in the second game of the season last year. His departure meant an opening for Bryan Shepherd, although his season, too, was cut short by a lacerated kidney. He played in eight games, starting four, but did return for the national title game against Sam Houston State (Texas).
Senior Bobby Ollman took the strong safety controls and he has since graduated. But Heagle and Shepherd are both back, but defensive coordinator Chris Klieman said it won’t be an issue whether one starts over the
Depending on the opponent, both may be on the field at the same time more often than not. Teams that use three- and four-wide receiver sets will require NDSU to counter with more defensive backs.
“You’ll see (Shepherd and Heagle) out there a bunch,” Klieman said. “We don’t play a lot of teams like our offense that lines up with two tight ends.”
Heagle was NDSU’s third leading tackler in 2011 with 82 stops. His signature game was a semifinal win against Georgia Southern when he had a career-high 15 tackles, many of them one-on-one against Eagles running backs.
That became a quick, distant memory at Colorado State.
But his rehabilitation has been so successful that he doesn’t have to wear a knee brace. Plus, he said the first week of practice has actually been less stressful on the knee than some of the rehab exercises he did all spring and summer.
The next step will be later this week when practices ramp up in terms of physical play.
“I know he can’t wait to get the full pads on to see if he can hit a little bit,” said cornerback Marcus Williams.
Considering Heagle is considered one of the team’s hardest hitters, that shouldn’t be a problem, either.
“It just feels good to be back out here with the guys,” he said. “Last year was obviously tough to see them, but I did as much as I could. It’s good to be back doing everything everybody else is doing.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia