BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- For six games, Nate Sudfeld had the football in his hand.
The then-junior quarterback was averaging 213.2 passing yards per game and had complete control of the offense. He led by example, both in the huddle and with his play.
At Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Ia. last season, the ball was taken out of his hands for the rest of the season after suffering a separated shoulder injury on his left (non-throwing) shoulder.
Over the last 10 months, having to lead without the football became one of the many formative leadership experiences for the Maxwell Award preseason contender.
”He used to be good in 7-on-7, directing with the ball in his hand,” Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said at Indiana’s media day on Aug. 8. ”Last year, those 3-4 months, he had to be a director without a football in his hand.”
In that 3-4 month period following his injury, Sudfeld led through helping out in the weight room or being involved with the development of younger quarterbacks, assisting in any way he could without throwing a football.
As Sudfeld got healthier, he began to do more. Over spring break in March, he took a mission trip to Uganda, where he saw the construction of an orphanage in an area the had previously been led by Joseph Koney and his guerrilla group the Lord’s Resistance Army, according to the Indianapolis Star’s David Woods.
”I definitely feel like I got more out of it than it helped them," Sudfeld told Woods. "That was something I really wasn't expecting."
In April, he turned his attention toward spring ball. He said felt pretty good during spring training, but still had a few issues with the injury.
Sudfeld said he felt 100 percent in June.
”I don’t know if I could’ve played a game quite yet in spring ball taking some hits,” he said. “Probably around June, I was really feeling good ... I could’ve played a game quite a while ago, so I’d say probably somewhere in June.”
It was a good thing he was at full strength in June, because July proved to be a very busy month for the Modesto, California native.
It started with working as a counselor at the prestigious Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.
Being at the camp afforded Sudfeld the opportunity of picking the brain of two of the NFL’s most successful quarterbacks, Peyton and Eli Manning, and also teach basic mechanics such as the three-step drop to campers in attendance.
“I got to council some of the younger quarterbacks, which was very rewarding to see them so interested and working hard at the position I love,” Sudfeld told IUHoosiers.com’s Sam Beishuizen. “When I was with the kids, it was always fun.”
Less than a week later, he was in Bloomington for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s Change the Play event, a partnership with Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health which encourages children to eat healthy and stay active. He was one of several IU athletes who assisted in putting on the program.
He completed his summer by speaking at the annual Big Ten Kickoff luncheon on behalf of the conference’s players in late July. Ohio State’s Joshua Perry joined Sudfeld as the only other player given the distinction for the event at the 2015 Big Ten Media Day in Chicago, Ill.
Just like at the conference’s media day, there were plenty of questions about Sudfeld’s health, including how long it took for him to get his confidence back after the injury.
According to IU offensive coordinator Kevin Johns, it was through the winter and the early part of spring. However, what stood out most to Johns was what happened after the spring.
”Coming out of spring football, into the summer, I haven’t seen him miss a beat,” Johns said at the team's media day. “You wouldn’t know he was ever injured. I feel good about where he’s at.”
Wilson said that Sudfeld can now do a lot of things comfortably and get back to working on football.
”He’s a very talented, very veteran yet young player that has a bunch of upside,” Wilson said. “And that, to me, is exciting and encouraging.”