MADISON, Wis. – If you take away the handful of plays he received in mop-up duty against Illinois and Minnesota, quarterback Curt Phillips has played four full games for Wisconsin this season.
A total of 240 minutes.
Four hours of clock time.
Anyone care to guess how much time Phillips spent rehabilitating from three major surgeries on his right knee to return to the field for the first time since the 2009 regular-season finale?
“Wow,” Brian Bott, the member of Wisconsin’s strength and conditioning staff who worked tirelessly with Phillips, said when asked that question. “Oh my God.
“The amount of time he has put in just to play four games … I don’t even think there is a comparative tool to use to match the preparation, the pre-hab and the rehab, everything that he has done.”
Phillips passed the four-hour mark in the first week of his first rehabilitation session – in 2010.
“Two years,” Phillips said with a smirk when asked how much time he has spent rehabilitating his right knee.
Phillips was not kidding. Neither he nor Bott could come up with even a ballpark figure of the number of hours they spent together.
Before trying to better understand the amount of time the fifth-year senior dedicated to his comeback here are the gory details one more time.
A dual-threat quarterback at Kingsport (Tenn.) High school, Phillips suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during spring practice in March 2010, before his redshirt sophomore season.
Surgery No. 1 followed.
Phillips came back more quickly than anyone expected – in about 41/2 months – but tore the same ACL during a November practice.
“I came down and he was sitting on a table with a bag of ice on his knee and tears in his eyes,” Bott said. “I was in tears. I said: ’You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ”
Surgery No. 2 followed and Phillips missed the entire 2010 season.
Phillips began experiencing problems with the same knee in spring 2011.
An infection had set in.
Surgery No. 3 followed, and Phillips missed the entire 2011 season.
That setback peeved Phillips because he believed he had followed his rehabilitation plan flawlessly.
“That one pushed him over the edge to the point where he had to make a choice,” Bott said. “I’m either done and people can feel sorry for me or I’m coming back and I’m going to play.”
Phillips has started the last four games for UW (8-5) and is set to start against No. 8 Stanford (11-2) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
Phillips wouldn’t be preparing to start in the Rose Bowl if he lacked the dedication and tenacity to work hour after hour, week after week, month after month through tedious rehabilitation sessions.
“He is not the most talented athlete, but he is one of the most driven athletes I have seen,” Bott said. “He is one tough … I don’t want to go with the next word.
“It is hard to keep him off the field. He is tough and that is what garners the respect from the players – his toughness, both mental and physical.”