Back in January, 2013 Elkton (Md.) five-star defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow was an early enrollee for then-USC head coach Lane Kiffin. After redshirting his as a true freshman, Bigelow had high expectations for Steve Sarkisian's first season.
But during USC summer workouts, Bigelow suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee that required season-ending surgery. It was a devastating blow for highly touted Bigelow who talked about his emotional state to USCFootball.com's Dan Weber last July.
"I cried for five or 10 minutes," Bigelow said a week after tearing his ACL.
But Bigelow kept his chin up and did what he could to help his teammates from the sidelines.
"I see myself as a motivator for this team," Bigelow said, doing "whatever I can to help -- anything I can do to help this team."
Just over one year removed from surgery, Bigelow is ready to contribute on the field instead of off it.
“I’m good now," Bigelow said about how he was feeling after a recent player-run practice. "They cleared me so I’m full go for practice. It has been a year actually, I had surgery last year on July 17. I feel great, my body feels great, I’ve lost some weight, and I feel ready to go. Right now I’m 6-foot-4 and 288 pounds.”
Bigelow wasn't taking any chances during summer workouts this year. He took part in the conditioning portions, but he kept his participation to a minimum during the player-run practices. When the Trojans kick off fall camp on Saturday, expect Bigelow to be full-go.
“I feel great. Camp is coming up soon and I just want to be the best I can be for that," Bigelow said. "Cody [Kessler] has really come out and pushed us during team runs. I feel the challenge was to see where we’re at mentally and physically, and I think we stepped up to it.
"I’m cleared to go so I’ll be able to do whatever they ask me to do during camp, and I’m excited for it and I can’t wait to do it.”
After two years of chomping at the bit, Bigelow has a lot to look forward to this season.
“I’m looking forward to just going out and showcasing my talents the way I really know I can," he said. "My first year it wasn’t what anyone expected, myself included, and I feel like my second year I was ready to come out and show more of that, but the injury kind of set things back. However, I feel like the injury made me better, and I’m just ready to go out and just show what I can do.”
The Trojans will be searching for a way to replace Leonard Williams this season, but with the return of Bigelow and five new freshmen coming in, the USC defensive line will be a deep and talented group in 2015.
“It’s definitely been good to have a new depth," he said. "In spring we were going with five bodies, so for the running and things like that, it was harder because we didn’t have a rotation. But it’s definitely going to be a lot easier now because we have some more bodies going in there.
"I don’t know if we can depend on any of our freshmen to go out and just make big impacts, but I know we’re definitely going to have a committee of guys out here ready to go and just dominate whoever they put in front of us.
“It definitely helps knowing you don’t have to sit and go the whole 120 plays that we do run at practice. It helps to know that there’s someone to come and relieve you, but you don’t depend on that. If I’ve learned anything from these guys, it’s don’t take anything for granted and don’t depend on the next man, like when it’s your time you go and you do your job.”
Bigelow knows that those talented freshmen will have to make some major adjustments to get ready for the college game.
“It’s an adjustment for anybody at any position," Bigelow said. "I had the same problem coming in; I was bigger so it took me a little while to get better, but I think for this group of guys, they’re young and hungry, they really want to work.
"There is no quit in them, they really go hard the entire time, and they give you everything they have. I think that’s going to definitely help us during camp.”
Besides the freshmen adding depth, former offensive lineman Jordan Simmons has switched over to the defensive side of the ball.
“Jordan is a natural athlete, everyone knows it," he said. "Jordan is one of the fastest O-Line and D-Line players on this team. He’s just a big, athletic man, and having him on the defensive side of the ball is definitely going to help.”
Once Bigelow steps between those lines this fall, he is keeping his personal goals simple and direct.
“My goal this season is to go out and just dominate. All-American, All-Pac12, I don’t really care about any of that, I just want to go out and just dominate and be the best player I can possibly be.”
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates on the Trojans getting ready for fall camp.
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Ryan Abraham has been the publisher of USCFootball.com since 1996. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideTroy or email him at email@example.com . TAGS: #USCFallCamp15