LINCOLN — Jack Gangwish laying on the Memorial Stadium turf at the 49-yard line served as the apex of bad news for the senior.
There was immediate and undeniable pain, stemming from a left elbow giving way as he tried to brace his fall on the final play of the Nebraska-BYU football game.
There was heartache, as Gangwish turned his head in time to see quarterback Tanner Mangum launch his pass and then watch the Cougars’ bench erupt.
And then disappointment, realizing as the Husker trainers headed out that he was already about to surrender the starting defensive end job that he had worked so hard, and waited so long, to get.
“Probably the worst 10 seconds of my life,” Gangwish said Monday.
Gangwish is still waiting for life to get back to normal, although he is feeling the strength coming back and said the dislocated elbow is improving. His return is not yet known, although Gangwish confirmed that it won’t be this week.
“If I had my way, I’d be back right now,” Gangwish said. “I feel good at this point. Just trying to trust the professionals and let them guide me as to when I need to get back.”
An NU defense reeling from injuries and high yardage outputs by its first three opponents certainly could use the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder, who proudly wore his Blackshirt the week leading into the season and savored the chance to become a full-time starter with Randy Gregory off to the NFL.
So Gangwish paused and took a deep breath as he discussed going on the shelf after just four quarters of football.
“I’ve been pretty lucky, been playing football for a long time and never sustained a major injury,” he said. “For it to happen right now, right when it seemed like it was finally my time, it’s tough. It’s been difficult.”
It really stung Saturday, when Gangwish traveled with the team but didn’t play in the 36-33 overtime loss at Miami.
“In the scope of college football, Nebraska vs. Miami, that’s Old Testament stuff,” Gangwish said. “Games like that, that’s part of the dream for me. I wanted to be there, wanted to contribute.”
For now, Gangwish can only sink his teeth into his rehab. Try not to overdo it. Stay after his conditioning so that he is ready when the time does come to return.
There has been a fine line with some of those things, too.
“The staff knows me and knows how I am,” Gangwish said. “They’re always trying to pull the reins back a little bit. They don’t want me going too hard or pushing it too far.”
Gangwish had a sack, another tackle for a loss and a quarterback hurry in the BYU game. He had poured himself into the previous eight months — even becoming a Husker captain — after starting three games a year ago when NU was without Gregory.
As Gangwish looked at the elbow, though, he realized almost immediately that it wouldn’t be a short road back into the lineup. It was even harder to watch on film.
His two forearm bones had come out of the joint and separated from the humerus. The medical staff immediately popped the joint back into place, then got him off the field and headed for X-rays.
“Just because of the look of it, how wrong it looked, I knew that this wasn’t going to be a quick turnaround,” he said. “And even before the trainers were out there, I was already dealing with that. Thinking about the time that would be missed, the reps that I wouldn’t be able to take.”
As NU head football athletic trainer Mark Mayer got to Gangwish near midfield, he probably didn’t even need to ask Mayer the question.
“The first thing I said to him — with not such good language, I suppose — was, ‘Did we just lose this game?’ ” Gangwish said. “He said, ‘Yeah.’ That was hard. That was tough.”
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