Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) senior linebacker Nate Zuk admits that this wasn't how he envisioned his collegiate career, but he's accepted his new path as a Bulldog.
"The first year I played five games and tore it," Zuk said, "and the second year I played three games and tore it again."
Zuk is speaking of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee, which he tore in consecutive seasons with the Bulldogs.
Now, the UMD co-captain and Willow River, Minn. native says it's something he doesn't stop thinking about --- until he puts on the pads.
"It's always in the back of your mind," Zuk said, "but you know once you cross the white line and the whistle goes, it's always back there, but you never really think about it. You don't have time to."
First-year UMD head coach Curt Wiese is excited to have Zuk back, this time as a senior leader for his defense.
"He's a guy that hasn't taken no for an answer," Wiese said. "He'll continue to do a good job for us defensively. And hopefully once again this year have a healthy year."
Zuk's hard work hasn't gone unnoticed, and his road to recovery has earned him the respect of his Bulldogs teammates.
"He's never whined or anything," UMD senior offensive lineman and co-captain Tom Olson said. "He's just one of those guys that wants to get back out here. Being the guys that came in with us my first year to see him battle through that is really cool."
For Zuk, the injuries have given him a new outlook on the sport he loves.
"It really makes you appreciate the opportunity we're given as student-athletes to come out here everyday," Zuk said. "It's nice and cool out here. It really makes you appreciate the opportunities."