Utah Utes football notebook: Tony Bergstrom back thanks to trainers

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5 2011 9:00 p.m. MDT

Utah lineman Tony Bergstrom, left, hopes to play Saturday against Arizona State just three weeks after tearing his MCL. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Utah lineman Tony Bergstrom, left, hopes to play Saturday against Arizona State just three weeks after tearing his MCL. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Not surprisingly, several talented football guys — from both Arizona State and Utah — received big compliments after the Utes' practice Wednesday.

But the biggest kudos were reserved for — and this part was surprising — two guys who usually toil in anonymity.

Utah head trainer Paul Silvestri and assistant trainer Eric Yochem, consider yourselves loved by a very appreciative big man.

Standout tackle Tony Bergstrom expects to play again Saturday only three weeks after suffering a painful knee injury, and the elated senior fully credits Silvestri and Yochem for helping his torn MCL rapidly recover.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder admitted to undergoing "a lot of rehab" in the aftermath of what he feared would be a season-ending injury incurred during the 54-10 rout of BYU.

"I was in here almost all day, every day doing treatments," Bergstrom said.

Bergstrom received welcome news that his ACL was "rock solid," but his MCL was completely separated from the tibia when a Cougar lineman landed on his leg.

"I went through all five stages of grief in about five minutes," he admitted.

Bergstrom thought his knee was blown out. He wondered if his career was over. He got "furious" and said "some horrible things" to his opponent.

"I think I told him I was going to murder his family. It was pretty bad," said Bergstrom, who laughs about it now.

"Paul calmed me down," he added. And then, "I started crying like a girl."

Fortunately for the U., Bergstrom's story and season didn't end there. After initial swelling subsided, he began an intense rehabilitation process that consumed his free time and beat the standard 4-to-6-week return time.

Silvestri and Yochem were by his side for most of the fun.

"Our training staff," Bergstrom said, "was amazing with me. ... They put in a lot of work. Paul and Eric do just great work here."

Bergstrom returned to practice Tuesday and felt "kind of slow" and gingerly as he went through drills, experiencing soreness and trepidation.

But improvement was made and less soreness experienced Wednesday, and he's hopeful for Saturday.

"I've got two more days to get right back to where I was," he said. "I think that's all I really need."

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham hopes Bergstrom's return helps the Utes find consistency in their running attack. Having a trusted senior blocking for fill-in quarterback Jon Hays will be nice, too.

Whittingham also lauded Bergstrom for being a good example with his dedicated rehab: "That's a great indicator for the rest of the guys how much it means to him and what it takes to get yourself back."

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