A few weeks ago, I was thinking about story ideas for Wisconsin heading into B1G Media Days. I knew that I wanted to write something about the Badger linebackers, and with Jack Cichy in attendance, he figured to be a big part of the story.
However, I didn’t want to write about Cichy’s return to the field in 2017. I felt like his battle back from his season-ending pectoral injury had been well-documented.
Instead, I elected to do a story on how it seems like the Wisconsin linebackers have more fun than any position group in America. Seeing Cichy’s attitude in Chicago confirmed what I believed to be the case. It didn’t take much time around Cichy to see the obvious.
He couldn’t wait to have some fun in 2017.
After all, Cichy didn’t get to play in the B1G Championship last year. He wasn’t the guy who got to lead a Cotton Bowl victory, either. When Wisconsin was proving doubters wrong at the end of 2016, Cichy was on the sidelines in a sling.
Unfortunately, it’ll be more of the same for Cichy in 2017. The only difference this time will be that he’ll be sporting a knee brace.
The news that Cichy tore his anterior cruciate ligament was a punch-to-the-gut feeling. It might not be considered a devastating blow for the Badgers because of how deep they are at linebacker.
But for Cichy, a guy who was fired up for his fifth and final year in Madison, it was the ultimate buzzkill.
For those who don’t know the story of Jack Cichy, get ready because it’s so stereotypical Wisconsin. Cichy was a lightly-recruited Minnesota high school player who had intentions of attending Holy Cross. At the last minute, Wisconsin offered him a preferred walk-on spot.
So Cichy showed up to Madison at 185 pounds. Thanks to the Wisconsin strength and conditioning program, Cichy was 50 pounds heavier heading into his senior year.
Entering 2017, Cichy was a long way from looking like a walk-on. He earned spots on the watch lists for the Bednarik Award, the Nagurski Trophy and Lott IMPACT Trophy. Cichy was one of 10 players to crack the B1G’s preseason watch list. ESPN tabbed him as the No. 40 player in college football entering 2017.
There was no concern about whether Cichy would bounce back from his torn labrum. Everybody saw the guy who earned mid-season All-America honors before his 2016 was cut short.
Dating back to the Holiday Bowl against USC in 2015, few linebackers in the country have been as dominant as Cichy. That night, of course, was when he did something rarely seen in college football. Cichy’s three consecutive sacks earned him Holiday Bowl MVP honors and a new nickname.
He wasn’t crazy about “Three-Sack Jack,” though.
That’s because Cichy didn’t want to be known as the guy who had one impressive sequence. He wanted to be remembered for his entire body of work. All signs pointed to Cichy following the footsteps of Joe Schobert, Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt, and going out with a bang before heading off to the NFL.
Due to his latest crushing injury, it’s uncertain if Cichy will get that chance. He already used his redshirt, but Cichy would be a prime candidate to receive a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. That’s probably the last place Cichy wants his fate to rest with, though.
In the meantime, Wisconsin will move on. As they always do, the Badgers still have plenty of talented linebackers with T.J. Edwards, Garret Dooley, Ryan Connelly, Chris Orr and others. Don’t be surprised if Wisconsin still puts together a top-10 defense and wins another B1G West crown.
Once again, though, the Badgers will have a helluva linebacker in street clothes watching from the sidelines.
And he’ll want nothing more than to be part of the fun.