Badger senior center Bill Nagy getting change to play again
In July 2009, Nagy was driving home on his scooter after a Thursday workout when a woman ran a red light and hit him.
“We collided and I ended up flying,” the 318-pound Nagy said. “I did like two flips in the air, landed on my side, and I got up. I was just thankful that I was alive.”
It’s been a long road back to health for Nagy, one that isn’t lost on the fifth-year senior who is the projected starter at center on Saturday when the sixth-ranked Badgers (9-1, 5-1 Big Ten) play at Michigan (7-3, 3-3).
A big guy used to big collisions on the football field broke his right wrist and his right heel in the accident. He also suffered ligament damage in his foot and bruised his ribs.
“I couldn’t breathe or walk for a few days,” said Nagy, who was surprised his injuries weren’t more serious.
Teammate John Moffitt said Nagy’s condition looked serious enough when he went to the hospital.
“That was bad,” Moffitt said. “He was in a lot of pain. He couldn’t walk out, so I had to take him out in a wheelchair because of his foot injury, and then even going from the bed to the couch was tough for him.”
Still, Nagy wanted a starting role his junior season even though the torn ligament in his foot hurt his ability to push off for Wisconsin’s vaunted run game.
“(I) played for a little bit and it held up. I kept pushing it and I was expected to start in the Michigan State game the following week, the coaches gave me a shot, and it just didn’t hold up through practice,” Nagy said.
With that, his starting role was gone last season and worse, he kept trying to get back on the field despite an injury that generally takes six months or more to heal.
This spring, Nagy said he was still only about 75 percent, but began feeling better in the summer.
Injuries elevated him back into a starting role at right guard for four games, but when Kevin Zeitler’s high ankle sprain healed, Nagy returned to being a backup.
“Billy, if he had his druthers, would love to be the starting right guard. I’m not oblivious to that,” coach Bret Bielema said earlier this season. “I think it’s just another good example of a selfless act on this football team by a senior that wants to do everything he can to help us win.”
The coaching staff looked for ways to use Nagy, giving him two starts at tight end with the Badgers opening games in their jumbo packages.
His biggest role has come recently.
When center Peter Konz sparined his ankle in the 31-30 win against Iowa on Oct. 23, Nagy filled in. Konz re-injured the ankle against Purdue, paving the way for Nagy to make his first start at center in Wisconsin’s 83-20 victory over Indiana.
He’s got the best view of the offense with Wisconsin needing wins over Michigan and Northwestern to make a convincing case to be selected to its first BCS bowl game. Wisconsin is currently ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings, ahead of Ohio State (9-1, 5-1) and Michigan State (9-1, 5-1).
“I’ve been around long enough to see that a lot of guys get their opportunities with injury, and it’s a long season. A lot of things can happen, so I just went into it with an open mind,” Nagy said. “It was easy to get down, but I just kept telling myself everyday that you choose your own attitude.
“That’s one thing that you can always do, no matter what happens, you can choose your attitude. So I just tried to have a positive attitude through the whole thing.”