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Teammates offer prayers, support for Wisconsin running back Chez Mellusi after leg injury

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – If you didn’t know how much Chez Mellusi means to his teammates all you needed to do was watch the field Friday night to figure it out.

The senior running back was about to be carted off the field with what appeared to be a serious left ankle injury, but before he got away Wisconsin’s bench cleared.

The entire team came over to the far side of the field at Ross-Ade Stadium to offer their support. Running back Braelon Allen hugged him. Safety Kamo’i Latu and center Tanor Bortolini appeared to offer words of encouragement. So many others offered a pat on the back or the helmet.

The Wisconsin football team won its Big Ten opener, 38-17, over Purdue in front of 55,529 people, but in the process maybe have lost one of its most respected players for an extended period.

“I don’t know exactly what the deal is. I don’t know that it looks good,” Badgers coach Luke Fickell said after the game. “They’re hurting in there. If we lose him for a while, it will be tough. He’s not just a great football player for us. He is not just a great tailback, he’s a bit of the heart and soul of some of the things we do because of all the things he’s gone through.”

Mellusi's injury occurred in fourth quarter on routine play

Mellusi went down with 6 minutes 37 seconds left. He took a carry up the middle and as he was tackled, the defender's weight landed on his lower leg.

Mellusi, who finished with 11 carries for 39 yards, immediately signaled for help. His leg was placed in an air cast before he left the field. He was taken to an area hospital for X-rays but returned in time to fly back to Madison with the team.

“That was terrible to see, especially someone who put as much heart and soul into the game,” quarterback Tanner Mordecai said. “Our prayers are with him.”

Badgers running back Chez Mellusi is taken off the field in a cart after suffering an injury against Purdue during the second half Friday night.
Badgers running back Chez Mellusi is taken off the field in a cart after suffering an injury against Purdue during the second half Friday night.

Mellusi carries a load of respect in the UW locker room due to the adversity he has fought through over the years.

Two years ago, his first with UW after transfering from Clemson, he suffered a torn ACL in the team’s win over Rutgers. Last year he suffered a broken arm against Northwestern that sidelined him for four games.

This year he was splitting carries with Allen and had gained national attention for his 89-yard touchdown run in the season opener against Buffalo. He entered play leading the team in carries (40) and rushing yards (267).

“It hurts your heart,” safety Hunter Wohler said. “That is a dude that has grinded and trained with us for the last three years and you feel bad for the guy. He can’t catch a break. He works his tail off and has been with us every step of the way and never falters, never slows down. It hurts. It hurts for him. It hurts for the team obviously as good of a player as he is.”

Braelon Allen scores, honors Chez Mellusi with gesture

UW was ahead, 30-17, at the time of the injury. The Badgers went on to force a turnover that led to their final score, a 4-yard run by Allen with 3:35 left. After giving the ball to the official, Allen found a television camera, made a heart with his hands and flashed one finger for his close friend, who wears the No. 1 jersey.

It’s safe to assume Allen will be relied upon more if/when Mellusi is officially ruled out. Fickell also noted that sophomore Jackson Acker, who has been the team’s No. 3 back, and Cade Yacamelli, a redshirt freshman who has contributed on special teams, would be in the running for more action.

Acker caught one pass for 3 yards Friday, a play that came before the injury. He has eight carries for 31 yards this season.

“(Chez) is a great player," Bortolini said. "I'm praying for him, but I think we have a lot of good players in that running back room, guys that have a chance to break out. Jackson Acker is a guy who comes to mind. He has the ability to step up. He has what it takes, he just needs the opportunity.”

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Teammates united in support of Wisconsin's Chez Mellusi after injury