Comeback Kid: NDSU DT Nate Tanguay Rehabs Torn ACL
The football star hopes to be back better than ever in 2017
FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State’s legacy as a powerhouse is hardly tainted by the Bison’s loss in the FCS semifinals in 2016.
While everyone’s focus is now on what this upcoming season will bring, one player is already one step ahead.
Not by choice…but by circumstance.
Nate Tanguay will be a senior this fall.
The 295 pound defensive tackle’s season came to an end, before many of his teammates’ did, during week nine against Youngstown State.
“There wasn’t something right going into that game,” Tanguay said. “My knee was hurting.”
In the first half of the contest, Tanguay tore his ACL.
“I tried walking off because I always said ‘I’m never gonna lay on the field, never gonna need to get helped off’, and I couldn’t,” Tanguay said. “My knee just felt like there was nothing there. I couldn’t even walk on it. That’s when I knew something happened. So, I was in tears probably on the field when Coach Klieman came over. I think he knew what happened too, because it was pretty much a non-contact injury and whenever that happens, you know something bad happened.”
Head Coach Chris Klieman is never one to make excuses for his team.
After the diagnosis, Klieman spoke about what the injury would mean for his team back in November.
“You know, that’s the hand we’re dealt,” he said in a press conference. “I feel bad for Nate, because he’s had a tremendous season, but in the same respect, the train keeps moving. Nate wouldn’t want it any other way.”
But, watching the train roll on without him was not easy, especially for someone who has been competing his whole life.
“Coming back that first game, I think it was Indiana State or something, that was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to watch. Just being out,” Tanguay said. “I don’t think I’ve ever sat out of a game, ever, let alone practice. I had some practices even earlier in the year where I had to sit out some practices, and that’s just something I’ve never done. So, this year was definitely different. The year 2016 was not the best, like a lot of people are saying, but I’m hoping 2017 can be better so I can come back and be strong for my team, be an anchor and be a better captain.”
Tanguay is no stranger to hard work, but he knows getting healthy again is a new test.
As part of his rehab, he spent hours on an underwater treadmill to lessen the impact on his fragile knee.
It has been three months since the injury and he is now running again, above ground, and every day he works to build back the strength his legs once had.
“My upper body has been getting so much stronger,” Tanguay said. “That’s what I’ve been focusing on. I’ve got to get this to make up for my legs because they’re going to be a little bit weaker this year. I’ve been pushing that so hard. I think it was I tore my knee Saturday against Youngstown. Sunday I took the day off and then Monday morning I was in there at 7:30 lifting. Not even a day and a half after, I was lifting already, focusing on next year for myself and then focusing on my teammates for them to get better.”
Tanguay say he motivates himself by focusing on his goals and remaining optimistic.
“I tell myself the same thing every day I wake up,” Tanguay said. “I tell myself I’m an NFL defensive tackle. I’m a great player. I’m a great captain. I just keep telling myself these positive things and my rehab and keep telling myself why I’m doing these things. I’m doing it for my teammates, I’m doing it for my family, I’m doing it for the coaches, so that really drives me. Mentally, that makes me a lot better than where I was probably during the year when I was playing. So, my mental strength has gotten much, much better.”
But the disappointment still looms after the Bison failed to bring home a national title for the first time in half a decade.
“The motivating factors of not being the defending national champs and my knee definitely go hand-in-hand, because I feel like I definitely could have made an impact in so many of those games,” Tanguay said. “That really hits me personally, because I feel like I let my team down. I just feel like I could have done a lot, and I guess I put that weight on myself all the time, and I guess that’s what stresses me out and keeps me up at night sometimes, but it motivates me so much, because I told the guys, first thing I said ‘we’re going back, and we’re winning.’ That’s what I want, that’s what the guys want, because this whole thing isn’t done. Just because we didn’t win six in a row doesn’t mean the dynasty is done. We’re gonna keep being a great team, because we’ve got great coaches, we’ve got great guys that work really hard, we’ve got a great fan base that supports us through anything.”
Tanguay says he should be able to do more athletic workouts, focusing on agility, in April.
Then, in May, his physical therapist says he can get back to full-contact with no restrictions.