Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak was still on crutches this time last year after offseason knee surgery.
Yesterday, he took part in the Terrapins' first practice of the spring.
It was more than just a good first step for the senior. It was a chance to finally get a season off to the right start.
Wujciak, of course, redshirted as a true freshman and then tore an ACL during camp the next year. He's anchored Maryland's defense at middle linebacker the last two seasons, playing with more than a little pain and the looming threat of surgery the whole time.
If you're looking for a normal year for Wujciak, don't bother. It hasn't happened yet, even though Wujciak has established himself as an all-conference option despite barely practicing on Mondays and Tuesdays a season ago.
In some ways, it's a wonder he even got his season started well at all.
"I really didn't do much during the summertime, just rehab," Wujciak said. "I think I ran two or three times before camp started, came to camp, did the first week, scrimmages and they kind of tapered me back and didn't have me do much. Then I was flying out to Cal. I don't think I had maybe more than 15 or 16 running days before the season started."
This year should be different. Wujciak slimmed down since the 2009 season mercifully ended, and with more muscle, less fat and a rested knee, he should improve his on-field quickness.
Strength was never a factor, nor a nose for the ball. He rolled up 131 tackles last year, and his willingness to play through injuries --- he's made 25 straight starts, a streak twice as long as any Terp other than Adrian Moten (13) --- certainly make him one of the more plausible pro candidates among Maryland's upperclassmen.
That thought crossed Wujciak's mind, too, since he applied to the NFL's draft advisory board for an assessment. Unlike the last Maryland linebacker with a history of knee problems to go that route (Erin Henderson) Wujciak decided to remain in College Park another year.
"I looked at it a little bit, talked to coach Friedgen about it," Wujciak said. "I put my papers in to get graded. Overall, I've only played two years, so that's always hard. Seeing what happened with Erin, it's the same thing. I wasn't trying to find every reason to leave. It was more of 'All right, this is my situation.' It was definitely more [for] information, to see where I was at."
For now, it's off crutches and on the field for the Terps. At long last, it'll be at full strength, with the chance to author a complete season free of injury worries and filled with more plays like his interception return for a touchdown at N.C. State last November.
That could be the payoff of the running start both Wujciak and the Terps are looking for next fall.