Harden Resolve

When this year's senior day came about, many thought right tackle Josh Oglesby would need a wheelchair to make it out to midfield. After six knee surgeries and despite constant maintenance, the senior from Milwaukee is playing at a high level and living up to his own expectations heading into senior day vs. Penn State.

MADISON - If the Purple Heart was given out to football players, Josh Oglesby would have a whole cabinet full of them.

There was a time during preseason camp where the senior from Milwaukee would hobble to the line of scrimmage, get knocked down during his blocking assignment and would slowly bring his 6-7, 330-pound frame back to standing.

It looked like an old dog trying to do everything gingerly so as not to put undue stress on his old bones but even when Oglesby got shoved around, he always seemed to make it back to the huddle in time for the next practice rep.

"Josh has been playing pretty well given the situation with his knees and everything," said fellow senior lineman Kevin Zeitler. "He's definitely playing hard. He wants to be out there."

Despite six knee surgeries and countless hours rehabilitating and maintaining, Oglesby is primed to play in his 39th game and make his 26th start when No.15 Wisconsin faces No.21 Penn State in the regular season finale at Camp Randall.

"He's just a kid that wants to play his best football," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "If you do things according to plan, you should play your best football your senior year, and that's what he's trying to do. He came back faster than ever when they thought he was going to be out awhile with that last knee injury. He's playing with an edge."

Oglesby's name hasn't been brought up in conversation much this season, which is the biggest compliment an offensive lineman can have. He's had few problems on the offensive line, given up few sacks and taken few penalties.

"This year I am playing with a full deck, and I think you can see that with the way I have been playing and the way I have been moving," Oglesby said. "Being healthy has made a big difference for me."

Oglesby has torn the ACL in each of his two knees and has meniscus repairs, bone fragment removal, scopes and cartilage removal. He admits that there isn't much left in his knee that is "original" and makes sure he gives his joints constant attention. The UW medical stuff and coaches do, as well. During fall camp, Oglesby was held out of every night practice when the team practiced twice and had his repetitions cut down in practice throughout the year to preserve his strength.

Every Monday after a game, Oglesby goes in for two ice treatments to try and limit swelling and strengthen his knees for the next week. As a result, his knee hasn't felt this good in November in years.

"A lot of stuff is ice and different movements with my knee that the trainers do," Oglesby said. "That's pretty much Sunday through Sunday."

It's a small price to pay for a highly-touted recruit out of St. Francis HS who hasn't been fully healthy since his redshirt 2008 season. A five-star recruit and the top ranked lineman in his class out of a town in southwest Wisconsin of around 8,000, Oglesby estimated he received mail from between 50 to 60 Division 1 programs. It was a welcomed relief.

When Oglesby wanted to go on a four-day summer camp tour at Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame and his family only had enough money for him to go one day, Oglesby traveled 1,000 miles round-trip in a car with a childhood coach from the local Salvation Army league. On each drive home, Oglesby had a new scholarship to add to his total.

Even though the process could be construed as overwhelming, Oglesby never really had much of a debate. He grew up attending UW football camps, idolized All-American offensive tackle Joe Thomas and wanted to stay close to home so his family could watch him.

"Being an offensive lineman, there aren't many places you can go where you have more history than here," Oglesby said.

Maybe that's why he made the declaration that by the time he left Wisconsin, the Badgers would have a pair of Big Ten championship trophies and a national title sitting in their football offices. If he would have known about the future, he admits he would have kept his mouth shut.

Oglesby tore his right ACL four games into his high school senior season, an injury severe enough that he redshirted his first season at Wisconsin in 2007.

He flipped between left and right tackle with three starts in 13 games in 2008 and won the right tackle job in 2009, poised to live up to his words and the rankings, but missed the final three games of the regular season with (what else?) a knee injury.

The big punch happened last season when Oglesby partially tore the ACL in his left knee, missed the team's third and fourth game, tried to play through it, felt the knee get worse and he missed the final six games of the season, including the Rose Bowl.

But with each trip under the knife, Oglesby felt almost a strange sense of relief. With all the hype and high rankings placed on him, the doubt that he would ever live up to those standards seemed to fly out the window. After all, how can a man lead his team to a championship if he can't even walk?

In a way, the injuries freed his mind from the burden of having to live up to other's expectations.

"People have written me off," Oglesby said. "I lost count of the people that said I was done. There was no chance that I could live up to what they expected out of me but because of the injuries in some ways, as much as I hated them, they kind of helped me say that I no longer have to play for anyone else. I was playing for myself now."

And for his teammates. When Oglesby suffered a medial collateral ligament tear in week three, an injury that normally causes a player to miss two to four weeks, the senior rested for five days of practice, missed the game against South Dakota and returned to play one of the best games of his career against Nebraska.

"Our chemistry happens because you have good guys," said offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. "I think he truly cares about this team and I think he truly cares and likes to play football. There are guys across the board trying to do everything they can to try and contribute to this team and he's one of them."

Bielema often mentions how NFL scouts comment to him about Oglesby's size, frame and athleticism and that even with some shoddy knees, he has made positive impressions with agents and former teammates. When John Moffitt visited the team before the Indiana game, the rookie with the Seattle Seahawks could see the change.

"Moff made a comment about how he thought Josh was playing pretty good," Bielema said. "There aren't many Josh Oglesby's walking around in the world. He has that size frame (and) can pop down and do the splits. He's a freak athlete genetically."

Oglesby's guarantee of a national championship won't be valid, but another solid performance would give Wisconsin the chance to compete for a second straight conference championship. He'll have a big say in how that winds up and it's a challenge that means the world to him.

"You can't put into words how much it would mean to me," Oglesby said. "It was awesome for our team to do what we did last year and I was so proud of the team. Being a somewhat selfish person, I wanted to be a bigger part of it. Having the ability to that this year has meant the world to me."

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