Veteran Linebacker Not Deterred by Injuries

Fall camp is perhaps the most important time of the year for a college football team. Players have a chance to get into shape for the season, learn anything new that is being added, and most importantly, go full speed with their teammates while competing for starting roles.

Unfortunately, football is a physical game and many are forced to miss parts of this invaluable learning experience as they treat injuries that come as a result of the work and intensity put forth in these sessions. For some, this time lost can be a major problem, but Mountaineer linebacker Adam Lehnortt is determined to pick up right where he left off before a hamstring injury sidelined him.

After an impressive spring, it looked as though it would be Lehnortt's time to shine as he moved into a starting position beside one of his closest friends, senior linebacker Grant Wiley. The Oil City, PA native was using his speed and impressive size to wreak havoc in the offensive backfield, and the talk began of this being one of the most explosive linebacking units that the Blue and Gold have seen in recent memory.

As fall drills got underway, Lehnortt once again caught the eye of observers, and the junior firmly supplanted himself in the starting rotation. It seemed as though everything was going Lehnortt's way before a hamstring injury in the second week of practice sidelined the the powerful linebacker. The business management major missed both of the team's officiated scrimmages, and has had little time to get used to playing full speed and to become more acquainted with what his teammates do on the field. For many, this would be an excuse to hang their head and feel sorry for themselves, but Lehnortt has used the experience to study the defense and get himself ready for the opener.

That first contest is now just nine days away, but Lehnortt believes that he will be ready to not only to take the field but to make an impact against Barry Alvarez's troops.

"Right now I think the hamstring is about 80 percent, but we still have a week to go and I am sure I will be ready" Lehnortt stated confidently. "I get treatment every morning at 6:30, another one around noon, and then a final one after practice when I don't have to talk to reporters," Lehnortt explained with a smile. "I have been working hard trying to get back to full speed."

Whether he is at full strength may be a question, but there is little doubt that the intense competitor will take the field when the 2003 season opens on August 30th. "Even if I am not quite 100 percent, this is Wisconsin, it is the opening game, and it is going to be a sellout. There is no way I will not be ready for this one" Lehnortt relayed with confidence.

Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez is also certain that the 21 year old will be able to jump back into the fold without missing a beat.

"I would be concerned if he was not in great shape before we started but that was not the case" explained the third year mentor. "Adam has been working hard and practicing when he can and I have no reservations about him being ready when the season starts."

With Jeff Casteel taking sole control of the Mountaineer defense, some schemes have changed, but Lehnortt has been watching closely and feels that he fully understands his assignments.

"I like to think I pick up stuff pretty well and I have a good grasp of what we are doing," Lehnortt commented. "Someone who does not pay attention may have a problem" he admitted, "but I have a good understanding of where people are supposed to be and I just want to get out there and be aggressive and make plays."

Aggressiveness is likely to be a big factor in the revamped defense that relies heavily on putting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run. "I do not want to say too much because I do not know what is going to get back to Wisconsin," Lehnortt hesitantly stated, "but we are going to bring more people on the pass rush and not let people run around and make plays on us."

The taste of success last season has only further enticed the junior's thirst to repeat that success in 2003. Lehnortt, who now wears the number 10 jersey for the Blue and Gold, has experienced both the downs of 2001 and the ups of 2002 and is determined to make 2003 much like the latter. "I remember after we lost to Temple (in 2001), I went over to my buddy Grant (Wiley's) house and he looked me in the eyes and said ‘never again will I let that happen'," recalled Lehnortt. "I think failure is the biggest motivator around and success is just behind it." Lehnortt and Wiley have been through both and the pair is ready to make sure that success is the story of 2003.

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