Injuries are a part of football, a fact of life redshirt senior Dallas Lewallen knows plenty about.
Since being named the offensive scout team player of the year as a freshman, Lewallen has missed all or parts of seasons because of knee injuries, whether it be sprains, strains or dislocations.
“I’ve just been understanding that injuries are a part of the game,” said Lewallen. “When I’ve been injured, I’ve just put all of my focus and effort into rehabbing, working in the weight room with the trainers, and getting ready to play for this season.”
After being limited to only six games over a two year stretch, Lewallen entered his junior season healthy and earned a starting spot for the first time at center in his career. He started the first seven games but like in past years, fell victim to a knee injury and sat out the last six games of the season due to a knee injury.
Lewallen sat out all of spring practices to regain his strength and knows that he will again be counted upon to play a pivotal role for this year’s offensive line.
“It definitely feels great,” said Lewallen, who pronounced himself healthy. “Something that I’ve struggled with is to stay healthy but it feels great to be out playing and be out with the rest of the team.”
Even though Lewallen has been frustrated with his injuries he has never let his injuries bother him.
Lewallen was playing well at center before being lost for the season, but Wisconsin didn’t miss a beat after inserting redshirt freshman Dan Voltz - an early enrollee in 2012 - at center. With Voltz playing well last season and Wisconsin needing a replacement for left guard Ryan Groy, offensive line coach T.J. Woods decided to move Lewallen to left guard in order to keep Voltz at center, who was named to the 2014 preseason Rimington Trophy watch list.
Although he admitted he felt more natural at the guard position, the original position he was recruited at out of Berlin (WI) High, Lewallen has been happy with what has been a fairly smooth transition.
“It’s been pretty smooth for me; I’ve just been shaking off the rust a little and working on my run technique, hand placement and my pad level after not playing for quite a while,” Lewallen said. “I sat out spring and the second half of last season but through out my whole career I’ve been working at guard so the position is pretty familiar to me.”
With Lewallen having the ability play two positions on the line and question marks regarding the depth of the second unit, Lewallen’s versatility could come in hand if an injury occurs amongst the starters.
“It’s definitely good, it can help out the team and it is something Coach Woods wants us to be able to do is to be able to play multiple positions,” Lewallen said. “If it is left or right guard, center or guard or guard and tackle; it is good to be versatile and be able to help the team in that sense.”
One of three seniors on an offensive line that returns five players with starting experience, Lewallen has confidence that the Badgers’ line can be one of the best in the country. That’s one of Lewallen’s goals for the group.
In terms of individual goals, Lewallen only has one: health.
“Definitely to stay healthy is the number one goal,” Lewallen said, with a smile. “I just want to be able to help this year’s team reach its goals by opening up holes for our talented backs or in pass protection. We want to be able to get back to the Big Ten title game as a team and that is what we are working at.”