Braelen Oliver is headed into his 4th season with the Minnesota football team. The Georgia native is quite fortunate to even be playing following a serious knee injury he suffered in 2020 that saw him miss the entire season.

The linebacker, though, returned to the field in 2021, started 7 times across 13 games, and ended up with 24 tackles. That’s a significant accomplisment considering what he went through, according to Pioneer Press beat writer Andy Greder:

[Oliver] tore multiple knee ligaments and his hamstring, dislocated his knee and had nerve damage going down his foot, causing foot drop, where lifting the foot can be a challenge.

The Douglasville, Ga., native missed the 2020 season. “It was a dark time,” he said Monday in his first media session as a Gopher.

Oliver could be in line for an even bigger role in 2022, however, as he is currently practicing with the “1’s” during preseason. He’ll certainly hope that translates to his name being atop the depth chart when it’s all said and done, but if nothing else, he’s impressed the Gophers staff.

“I’ve coached him for a while, and he’s been up and down at times. He’s through that. He’s really matured,” said linebackers coach Joe Rossi. “He’s taken ownership of not only himself, but other guys on the team. He is playing really hard. He’s locked in in meetings. He’s studying film and then take some of the flashes that you’ve seen early in his career with making plays.”