If everything goes to plan, Chez Mellusi will be ready to play by the time Wisconsin opens the season against Illinois State in early September.
Speaking to the media Monday for the first time since tearing the ACL in his left knee, the Badgers running back updated reporters on his recovery.
“I feel super good. I’m running and next week will be four months (since the surgery),” Mellusi said. “So, I’ve just been attacking it. The goal is to be available September 3rd.”
The Clemson transfer was having a solid first season with Wisconsin when he went down against Rutgers on Nov. 6. Despite a hamstring injury in fall camp that lingered into the season, he started the first nine games and was leading the Badgers in rushing with 815 yards, five touchdowns and had topped the 100-yard mark four times. Mellusi, along with Braelon Allen and an improving offensive line, had revitalized the Wisconsin run game over the second half of the season. It’s why when the injury initially happened — on a 3-yard carry at the beginning of the third quarter — he didn’t want to make too much out of it. Instead, he sat out two plays and then carried for 11 yards before limping off the field.
“Being a ballplayer, I was like, whatever, I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t really care what’s wrong. I just want to play for the guys,” Mellusi said. “I actually played a couple plays and then it kind of got a little bit more unstable as I went and I came out.”
Mellusi spent nearly 20 minutes in the injury tent in shock over the initial diagnosis. His season was done and he had a long, grueling rehab ahead of him. He stayed in that mindset, essentially dazed and feeling bad for himself, for a week before snapping out of it. Mellusi knew there was a fight ahead and he turned to someone for advice that battled back quicker than anyone he knew — former Clemson teammate and current Green Bay Packers wide receiver Amari Rodgers.
Back in the spring of 2019, Rodgers tore the ACL in his right knee during practice. Everyone feared he would miss the season. But come Week 2 that fall, there was Rodgers lining up for the Tigers against Texas A&M. He had just two catches for six yards that day, but he followed that up with four grabs for 121 yards and two touchdowns the next week.
So, even before Mellusi had his surgery, he texted Rodgers to get his take on everything he would be facing, including even asking him what kind of graft he should use in replacing the torn ACL.
“It was it was really good conversation for me just looking at the mental aspect,” Mellusi said. “How he attacked his whole rehab.
“He came back in about five months or six months. If he can do it, why can I? Like, I don’t have to be back in six months, because when the season starts it will have been 10 months for me. So, I have time.”
Mellusi is one of three running backs not expected to do anything in spring practice over the next month. Seniors Isaac Guerendo (Linfranc ligament tear) and Brady Schipper (unknown) are also out. That has meant more work for Allen, junior Julius Davis and redshirt freshman Jackson Acker.
So Chez Mellusi made the proverbial #gainz this offseason. He told reporters he was up to 220 from 200-205. Confirmed he tore ACL vs. Rutgers but also injured hamstring during last week of fall camp last year. pic.twitter.com/4hWfdFTbao