Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — It isn't the pain or the work that challenges every injured athlete. Sometimes it is the second-guessing, the confidence issues and learning to truly trust the repaired body part.
This is the challenge for BYU's two most productive defensive players from 2011, linebackers Brandon Ogletree and Kyle Van Noy.
The pair entered fall football drills with question marks as to how recent injuries might allow them to perform. Should they protect themselves by avoiding contact, can they trust their rehabilitation and heal time? Can they confidently set aside that nagging mental Post-It-Note in the back of the brain that reminds them they got hurt?
Van Noy underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason. He expects to go full bore in drills after a doctor's examination slated for Aug. 14, according to Bronco Mendenhall.
Ogletree broke his foot the second week of spring practice. While he avoided having to undergo surgery or the insertion of screws in the foot, he had to keep weight off his foot for six weeks and then wore a boot for four more weeks. He has been medically cleared and began running full speed in July.
This duo isn't just an ordinary twosome.
Ogletree led BYU in defensive points last year with 76 total tackles. Van Noy ranked second with 68. While Van Noy played in all 13 games, some of them with that injured shoulder, Ogletree missed one game in 2011 and still registered the most points on defense.
The proper and timely return of Ogletree and Van Noy looms big for Mendenhall because of their experience, leadership, playmaking abilities and knowledge of what he is trying to accomplish.
Ogletree is backed by Tyler Beck. Ziggy Ansah relieves Van Noy.
"I was in a pass rush drill and planted my foot and felt a pop," said Ogletree of the day he broke his foot in March.
"It really hurt and I couldn't figure out what happened," he said. "I took the next couple of reps, trying having it taped up, but I couldn't go. Once I cooled down, I couldn't walk at all and X-rays showed I'd broken the navicular bone in my foot. Another bone crunched up against it and it fractured."
After months of training and workouts in January, February and March, Ogletree had to go back to square one. "It was frustrating, very frustrating when you work so hard and get yourself in shape for spring ball."
This offseason, with the injuries, Van Noy and Ogletree have fought a major battle to keep up their strength and conditioning while rehabbing and limited exposure to their injured parts.
Ogletree couldn't run. Van Noy couldn't lift certain weights. Both fought off losing lean muscle mass they'd accumulated through hundreds of hours of weight training the past year.
"When I couldn't bear weight, I couldn't squat (weights) or run and I lost a lot of weight. I got down to 220 pounds," said Ogletree. "I had to work hard to put it on."
The same time Ogletree broke his foot, so did offensive lineman Brock Stringham. In Stringham's friendship, he found a workout partner to help push each other every day.
Van Noy and Ogletree made a pact to workout twice a day all summer. "We knew if we just did the normal workout, it wasn't going to get it done, so we worked out twice a day and ran together every evening," Ogletree said.
While Van Noy is not cleared for full practice action, Ogletree is and he said his foot is still sore. "I'll play through it, it won't keep me off the field," he vowed.
Still, both are facing that age-old challenge of athletes who get injured. It is a kind of fear that bubbles up inside and doesn't go away until trust in self is rebuilt.
"The hardest part," said Ogletree, "is I'm kind of scared if I plant my foot or make a cut, something will happen again. This is the hardest part, to get that confidence."
Heading into the first full week of fall camp, eyes are on this duo and the comebacks they sorely desire.
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