Completing the Circle

Tearing his ACL, MCL and cartilage in the first three minutes of his first game his senior year, redshirt freshman Tony Megna thought his football career was over. Even so, Bret Bielema and Wisconsin gave Megna a chance and the linebacker is making sure the Badgers don't regret it.

MADISON - Tony Megna has already come full circle in his football career, everything else is just extra credit now as far as he is concerned.

While many players go through trials and tribulations to accomplish their goals, both on and off the field, Megna's story is a somewhat special one. After suffering a major knee injury in the first three minutes of his senior career (an injury two doctors failed to diagnose properly), the schools recruiting Megna stopped because they didn't want to take the risk. He came as a walk-on to Wisconsin, left the program when his knee flared up during summer workouts, rehabbed on his own and rejoined the program midway through the season.

Showing his coaches and teammates that he can still be a solid player, Megna continues the road to recovery, which, as he told Badger Nation, has been a long, but rewarding, one.

BN: Talk about your time at Oak Creek. That's a pretty big football powerhouse in the state of Wisconsin. What do you learn about yourself?

Tony Megna: Absolutely. Well, Coach Koch's program at Oak Creek was what got me started in football. In taught me and basically got me to the next level. They really pushed me to the next level, teaching me everything I needed to know about football, leadership, keeping your head up, working hard and take everyday one at a time.

BN: What was the main reason for your switch from quarterback to strong safety? Why did that happen?

Tony Megna: Well, I am not really sure (laugh). I've always been a defensive player but Coach Koch just said basically whenever we needed something, because we were hurting on defense, to basically move me. So, I was more than willing to move over there. I did go both ways for a few games until they found a replacement at quarterback. I though it was a really good fit on defense and apparently was the right move because that's where I am playing in college.

BN: How did you thrive so soon because that's two different animals going from quarterback to safety?

Tony Megna: Yeah a little bit. But usually the strong safety is the leader of the defense and the quarterback is the leader of the offense. On defense, you can be a little bit crazier and just run around and play football and run into people as hard as you can. That's kind of what I was all about in high school.

BN: After that, how did you get moved to linebacker? You really have been all over the place.

Tony Megna: Switching to linebacker was something I was thrilled about. Mainly in high school, I was basically a linebacker playing up in the box. I think moving to safety to linebacker here, there's a lot less coverage and just kind of playing up in the box and tackling, which is kind of my strong point I think.

BN: How has the versatility helped you? You played three different positions and excelled at all of them. How has each position molded you to the player you are today?

Tony Megna: It just gives you a better understanding of football in general, understanding the offense, understanding the offensive schemes, the coverage schemes, always knowing you have safety help behind you at linebacker so you always know what they are doing. It gives you a better feel of the game in general.

BN: When did you first commit to UW?

Tony Megna: After I tore my ACL, I didn't play my senior year. That's kind of when the Wisconsin recruiter started picking up. Actually, some of the schools that were recruiting me real hard kind of backed off after I didn't play my senior year and that's when UW picked up. It was really encouraging that, even though I didn't play my senior year, they still wanted me to come here. I was all for it.

BN: Was that a demoralizing process? You picked up the position so well, you hurt your knee and all these schools forget about you.

Tony Megna: A little bit. You know, I think everything happens for a reason and I try never to feel sorry for myself. Family support, coaches, everybody helped get me through it and was a big encouragement for the UW coaches to want me to come here even though I did not play my senior year.

BN: Talk me through that injury. How exactly did you hurt it?

Tony Megna: I was playing safety in my first game of my senior year. In the first three minutes, I got hit from the side while playing safety. Got hit in my right knee, tore my ACL, my cartilage, my MCL, blew all those out. I had three surgeries from after the injury to mid summer, right before summer camp at Wisconsin. Rehabbed everyday to try and work through it and to get back in shape for summer camp. That was my main goal to come here and be ready to play.

BN: Did you know it immediately that when you got hit something was wrong?

Tony Megna: Actually no. They told me that I just sprained my MCL. I actually went to a doctor three days later and they drained me knee and told me it was a sprained MCL. I went for a second opinion and it didn't seem right and had an MRI that day, got the results and found out the bad news. It was a big blow when I first heard that but I knew you could come back from an ACL injury. I worried about it but I knew I could come back from it from that standpoint.

BN: You got here 2007 and then you left a few weeks later. Why did you decide to leave the program?

Tony Megna: It was the second or third week of the summer camp. What happened was that I came in, thought my knee was ready but it kept swelling up with the heat getting to it throughout camp. It just wasn't ready so I left the program. I did rehab on my own, kept in contact with Coach B and rejoined the team when I thought it was ready. We talked about it about midway through the season.

BN: How supportive was he through the process because you hear from a lot of players going through injuries that Bielema is always right there for them?

Tony Megna: Very supportive and he's always willing to talk about it. Him and Bill Nayes (Director of Football Operations) were the two guys I was in contact with and they were both real supportive. Whenever I needed to talk to coach about it, I called him up and we talked. They helped get me through it.

Megna signs on to become a Wisconsin Badger.

BN: What have you all done to bounce back? Take me through the process of rehabbing on your own to where you are now.

Tony Megna: A lot of it was muscle work after the surgery. I whole leg was out of balance after surgeries and I just needed to strengthen it and work on stability stuff, a lot of balancing, and finally getting in more plyometrics and jumping and more explosive exercises. After that, it came around full circle and now it's not even a problem. I am very happy how it healed.

I feel 100 percent. I am shocked how my knee healed. Some people say that the knee would be nagging for the rest of your career but I don't see it to be a problem anymore.

BN: How much weight have you put on since you've been?

Tony Megna: I came in at about 185 pounds and I weight about 200 pounds right now. I put on about 15 pounds and hopefully going to gain about 10 more in the next couple years.

BN: With you finally being at 100 percent, how important is this spring been for you to show people that you're back and still the same player that you were in high school?

Tony Megna: Exactly, it's very important because last season, not being part of the team for half the season, I didn't get a chance to show the coaches what I could do. I am just a football player. Put me on the field and I'll make things happen.

BN: You had a play on John Clay the other day that you hit him, stripped him and recovered the fumble. Some found it ironic since by you leaving the program, it allowed Clay to enter the program. Talk about that play.

Tony Megna: It was actually weird because I tore my ACL when I was playing Clay the first game. It was a little weird. It was just making things happen, coming up and playing football. Actually in the first game, the only play that did happen before I tore my ACL was I stripped John Clay. So, I am making things happen against him too.

BN: It's funny how things come full circle then huh?

Tony Megna: Exactly. Exactly. I am just thrilled to be here and happy that everything has worked out.

BN: How excited are you for not only the spring game playing for the first time but running out on the tunnel as apart of the team after everything you have gone through?

Tony Megna: I'm very excited. I didn't get to play my senior year, I really didn't get to play last year so I have been kind of sitting around, waiting to play football and now I get the chance to play. I am just itching, chomping at the bit to play.

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