DeKALB — Jason Schepler was all ready to go.
The Northern Illinois senior tight end had suffered a torn ACL in the spring of 2011, and wasn’t able to play during the Huskies’ Mid-American Conference championship season last year.
In February, the Sycamore product was feeling good during winter conditioning. Then, he found out he would have to rehab all over again.
He can’t remember exactly what he was doing, just a basic change of direction drill. Suddenly, in what Schepler calls a fluke thing, he ended up making a wrong cut and tearing the same ACL. Schepler wouldn’t practice during the spring and had to rehab the injury all over again.
“It was kind of disappointing at first, but I rallied around my teammates and I tried to stay positive. I mean, it’s my second time around so I knew what was to be expected,” Schepler said. “I kind of knew what I had to do, and I knew what rehab I’d be doing. At first I was disappointed, then I shined a positive light on it by knowing what I was going to be doing.”
While he was sidelined, Schepler spent his time coaching the running backs and tight ends, and was responsible for knowing the offensive signals in the fall.
In Schepler’s words, he was a student for a year. Now, the Sycamore alumnus is trying to apply what he learned in preseason practice.
NIU tight ends/fullbacks coach Joe Tripodi said Schepler really got a grasp of the team and the offense while he coached.
“If you can teach something, the better you can teach it, then you know it. He knows this offense,” Tripodi said. “He knows this team inside and out. He’s a great leader and one of the most respected guys that I’ve ever been around.”
Last season was supposed to be Schepler’s final one with the Huskies. Those plans changed becaise of the original injury, and Schepler used a redshirt year.
With NIU less than a month away from the season opener against Iowa at Soldier Field, Schepler said he’s feeling fine with no issues. Huskies coach Dave Doeren is holding him out of every other practice, and Schepler was in a black no-contact jersey Wednesday.
He also is wearing knee braces as a precaution, and is taking camp day-by-day and giving Doeren updates on how he’s feeling.
“I just want to make sure I’m coming back at the right time, if that makes sense. I don’t really want to rush anything. It’s my last year,” Schepler said. “I want my last game, I want to be playing in it. I don’t want to be sitting out for our last game. I can’t rush anything. I just have to be patient and be honest with how I’m feeling.”