Pat Muldoon showed flashes of potential last season in a limited role on Wisconsin’s defensive line.
But the fact that he was on the field and contributing for the Big Ten champion Badgers was an accomplishment in and of itself.
Muldoon suffered a major setback in November of his freshman year when he tore his right ACL as a member of the scout team during practice. But, to make matters worse, about three months later he felt discomfort in his other knee.
Muldoon said his knee started “locking up,” and doctors found that “about half or three-quarters” of his knee cartilage was cracked off. Two screws were inserted, and Muldoon was on crutches for another two and a half months.
“That just really set me back,” Muldoon said. “I lost basically all my leg strength. It’s been a long road back.”
But Muldoon completed the long, tiresome hours of rehabilitation and worked his way into the D-line rotation last season as a redshirt freshman. He saw action in all 13 games and finished the year with seven total tackles and two tackles for loss.
But he never felt completely healthy.
Now, at the start of spring camp here in his third season, the 6-foot-3, 262-pound defensive end says he’s ready to compete with no limitations.
“Finally in winter conditioning is when I’d say I felt 100 percent,” Muldoon said. “I got my strength back. I got stronger in my upper body, and had no real nagging pains or anything.”
Muldoon’s complete recovery comes at a perfect time for the UW defense.
Last year, Muldoon backed up junior standout J.J. Watt, but when you’re the back-up to a star player, you are not got going to see too much playing time.
“I was definitely a role player,” Muldoon said. “But I was happy to get some good experience behind such a good player in J.J.”
But even in the snaps he got, Muldoon could sense he wasn’t at his best.
“Mentally the hardest thing was not being timid,” Muldoon said. “Sometimes I could feel myself leaning one way to protect the ACL knee more.”
That trepidation no longer exists.
The redshirt sophomore feels confident in his knees, and now the door is open for him to make a greater impact with Watt declaring for the 2011 NFL draft. He is currently battling junior defensive end David Gilbert for a starting spot on the line opposite senior Louis Nzegwu.
Muldoon expects the competition for that spot to wage on all the way until the season opener, but regardless of who wins the starting job, there will be plenty of snaps to go around as UW employs a deep rotation to keep linemen fresh.
“It’ll be great just to be given a shot,” Muldoon said. “I’m still competing with some other great players to win a role, and we should have a really good D-line this year.”
One of the anchors and leaders of the D-line will be fifth-year senior Patrick Butrym, and he anticipates Muldoon playing a substantial role for the Badger defense.
“Patty got some really valuable experience last year,” Burtym said. “There is no question I’m confident in his ability to step in next year and do a phenomenal job.”
Like Butrym, the Wisconsin coaching staff has been excited about Mudloon’s skill set and potential ever since the Ohio native came to the program from St. Xavier High School.
Muldoon is planning on finally putting those skills on full display.
“I like to think I’m a technician. I work hard. I know the playbook well,” Muldoon said.
“Just go 100 percent every play.”
With the injuries now in the past, he finally can.