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ANN ARBOR — In addition to all of the new experiences that came with being a freshman in college, Chris Wormley had to contend with another experience: learning how not to be actively be involved in football.
After he underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL last fall, the Whitmer graduate attended meetings, went through rehabilitation, and sat on the sidelines in practices with the Michigan football team.
In all his years of playing football, he had never had a major injury that required sitting out an extended period of time, let alone one that required surgery.
The defensive end said, “it was definitely a new thing, watching from the sidelines and not being able to play. It was a learning experience.”
Now, being healthy and actively participating has brought Wormley back to a simple perspective of the sport.
“It’s all about having fun,” the 6-foot-4, 289-pound Wormley said. “You mess up one play, and you’ve got to go right back. It’s just trying to contribute to the team.”
Wormley has four tackles, half a sack and one pass breakup and played a part in a key stop for the No. 19 Wolverines (4-0), who host Minnesota at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
In the fourth quarter of a 24-21 win Sept. 21 at Connecticut, Wormley teamed with Mario Ojemudia to sack Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer for a loss of nine yards, which helped the Wolverines maintain a 21-21 tie. Brendan Gibbons’ field goal on the ensuing drive helped the Wolverines hold off an upset.
“It felt good to get on the field and to try to help out the team as much as I can,” Wormley said. “It’s all about watching film, seeing your opponents and knowing what they’re going to do before the ball’s snapped. It’s playing physical and playing aggressive, in terms of knowing your opponent.”
As for the surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee? Wormley has worn braces on both knees this season and hasn’t had any lingering psychological effects of not playing football for a year. The first days, he explained, were the most challenging.
“When the season started off, I was a little bit shaky,” Wormley said. “I went through camp feeling good and the first four games, I was feeling pretty good.
“The biggest challenge was being focused. During camp, it was more of a mental thing, just making sure my knee was okay, which it was, then going out there and playing fast, without thinking.”
GALLON’S GRABS: Wide receiver Jeremy Gallon is fourth in the Big Ten in catches per game and fifth in receiving yards per game (22 for 328 yards and four touchdowns) but finished with a season-low four catches for 31 yards against Connecticut.
“[Connecticut] double-teamed me, and they zoned me,” Gallon said. “This year’s the first time it’s happened to me. I’m just going to continue to play the way I play.”
Gallon gave some insight into the mindset of quarterback Devin Gardner, who is coming off a season-low 97 yards passing against Connecticut, and who has eight interceptions this season — the most of the Big Ten’s top 10 quarterbacks so far.
“He’s been the same,” Gallon said. “Devin’s not the type to shy away from who he’s been and how he’s been acting. There’s nothing bad I can say about it, and his game has improved a lot. He’s wanting a lot more for us, and it’s us wanting a lot more for him. For him making mistakes, nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s how you react to how you make the mistakes and how you overcome the mistakes, that makes you who you are.”