Week one of the football season arrives Friday night in Indiana, and one of the state’s top teams will be without its best player on defense.
Four-star linebacker Pete Werner underwent surgery on both hips in June after suffering labral tears in the spring.
“I’ve had pins in both hips all summer,” Werner said. “It was a chain reaction when it happened in the spring, and I had to stop track because of it. But I’m going full contact this week in practice. I’m back to full mobility and everything feels great. I’m projected to come back week two or week three versus Mishawaka.”
Indianapolis Cathedral’s star defender sought guidance from the Notre Dame staff back in the spring. The Irish commitment got some good advice.
“I had the option of getting surgery before the season or after,” Werner said. “I talked to Notre Dame, and they wanted it done before, so I could have more time to recover.”
When Werner returns, he’ll hit the field at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds as a strong-side linebacker. That’s a new position for him at Cathedral but also the same position he’s projected to play at Notre Dame.
“I’m starting at Sam this year,” Werner said. “It’s something I’ll adopt to pretty easily. I played free safety my freshman and sophomore year, and last year I played downhill and backpedaled every play.”
After winning its fifth consecutive state championship in 2014, Cathedral fell in the 6A regionals last year to Avon. This year, Werner is eyeing redemption.
“As a team, the one goal is a state championship,” Werner said. “Personally, I want to stay healthy and do the best I can to help us win. I don’t have any numbers I’m trying to hit tackle-wise. I just want to make all of my assignments and have no missed plays.
“Our toughest games will be versus St. Xavier in week five. We play them at Butler and I really want to win that game. Our last game of the season is versus Center Grove, who won the state championship last year.”
Werner faces the state’s two top juniors every day in practice in four-star offensive guard Emil Ekiyor and four-star running back Markese Stepp, another Irish commitment.
“Yeah, (Stepp) is what everyone thinks of him,” Werner said. “He’s crazy. He’s so hard to bring down and he runs all over the place. It’s hard to game plan for him because he’s such an animal.”
Werner also lines up alongside a top prospect in Cathedral’s defense in three-star junior linebacker Hugh Davis, who visited Notre Dame for Irish Invasion.
“He’s a great athlete, very smart as well,” Werner said. “He’s definitely a great player and has the right mindset all the time.”
Werner chose Notre Dame over Michigan back in March. At the time, Stanford had expressed interest but had not offered.
“I told everyone, including Stanford, that I was a hard commit,” Werner said. “I’m pretty sure if I was open to them still, they would offer. But I’m completely committed to Notre Dame. It’s not something I worry about.”