Caputo Ready to Roll

He was a team captain and a senior leader, but fractures in his left ankle made West Allegheny athlete Michael Caputo question his future. Now, in his first in-depth post-injury interview, Caputo tells Badger Nation about the injury, how the Wisconsin coaches helped him on his road to recovery and how is ready to get back to work.

MADISON - Before the opening kickoff of his senior-season opener for West Allegheny HS against South Park, life couldn't have been much better for Michael Caputo.

A humble player who and doesn't take a lot of credit, Caputo was thrilled to have put the college process behind him when he decided at a low-key press conference to play for coach Bret Bielema and the University of Wisconsin, allowing him to have security and the ability to focus solely on football.

A team captain and an integral part of the team's offense and defense, Caputo was ready for a memorable season. It was memorable all right, but the memories were a complete opposite than what he was expecting.

Laying on the field during the first quarter of that first game and later laying in his hospital bed in the days that followed with fractures in his left ankle, Caputo went through the ‘what-if' faze.

"You look down and your ankle is lying off your leg, you don't know what to think," said Caputo, who gave Badger Nation his first interview since the injury Sept. 4. "I had surgery the next day and was in the hospital for another four days, and I had to learn how to maneuver again, walk again and stand up straight. It was rough, and I didn't know what was going to happen."

Caputo was the ‘all-everything' prospect that ran for 2,629 yards and 38 touchdowns and 97 tackles as a junior, and college coaching staffs saw him being able to grow into his 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame and player as a linebacker or a safety. Now he was being assigned to a wheelchair for two weeks to keep any pressure off the ankle to avoid a more serious setback.

"They didn't even want me to stand on crutches," Caputo said. "I worked out my upper body that next week because I had so much energy and was frustrated. The negativity was always there. I had my family, my coaches and my friends trying to keep it positive."

The Call

It was shortly after the surgery when Caputo said he made the most challenging call, one that would inform the UW coaches that the athlete they had spent so long recruiting was out for the season and possibly longer.

On his unofficial visit to Madison over the summer, Caputo fell in love with everything the program, the coaches and the campus had to offer. He loved the winning tradition, and the fact that the staff seemed to have more of a relationship with his players than the coaches at Ohio State and Penn State. Most of the coaches were laid back and personable, but strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, who played at the same high school for the same coach as Caputo, was intense and passionate, making Caputo, a self-proclaimed weight-lifting junkie, thrilled.

Even a walk down State Street gave him a hometown feel, as he saw his last name etched in a stone foundation block. So imagine the huge sigh of relief that as the phone got passed around, the unwavering support from the UW coaches helped Caputo get his mind right.

"They definitely gave me a confidence booster," said Caputo, who even got a well-wishing phone call from former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. "Coach Bielema sent me a letter told me to keep my head on straight and stay confident. Those are things you never forget."

Ready to Work

When he and his family packed up the car and started on the 600-mile journey to Madison on Sunday, Caputo pronounced he was 100 percent and ready to work.

Because of his weight-room workouts, his body was in such good shape that his rehabilitation went quickly, so fast that Caputo was finished before Christmas and actually suited up for one of his high school team's final games. He later had a second surgery to take out the plate and 10 screws to help the bones heal, only to be pronounced healthy two weeks later.

"It's a huge relief," Caputo said. "The ankle is actually more flexible than my other ankle, so I have to work on my other ankle now."

Starting summer workouts this week, Caputo says the UW coaching staff plans to start him off at strong safety and work behind senior Aaron Henry. But when it comes to a certain position or what his jersey number is going to be, Caputo could care less.

He just wants to play football, and deservedly so. Consider it his big break.

"The fact that it's Wisconsin excites me, because I really like Wisconsin and the people I've met," Caputo said. "I am going to be with these people for the next four years, and you get the gut feeling that it's going to be exciting. I am excited to start my career of football and get a good education."

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