Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy held the broken cast in his left hand, brandishing it like a trophy.
“The cast broke,” Trumpy explained, even though it was obvious that the thumb portion had detached from the rest of the cast.
But it was proof that Trumpy isn’t afraid to go all out in spring practice now that his left wrist has healed from a non-surgical fracture he suffered in November. Trumpy is still doing physical therapy on the wrist, and he wears the cast as a precaution.
“I have to trust the fact that I have been cleared [to play] and that I have a cast on it,” Trumpy said.
The news that Trumpy is going full throttle is a relief to the Wildcats and running backs coach Matt MacPherson because the sophomore rushed for 530 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games last season. A healthy Trumpy just might make him “the guy” in the backfield this fall.
MacPherson said the other running backs weren’t all that fazed after Trumpy broke his wrist Nov. 20 against Illinois at Wrigley Field. Before Trumpy gradually started to rack up the yardage, the Wildcats’ running game was in flux. It was like a running-back-by-committee situation where several players took turns getting handoffs from quarterback Dan Persa.
“We’ve had so many guys play the last couple of years that it is commonplace, and guys are used to saying, ‘Oh, it’s your turn this week,’ ” MacPherson said. “Not that I’m happy with that, but I think it was a next-guy-in type of attitude. It was an easier adjustment [to make].”
Trumpy remembers exactly how he broke his wrist. On the game’s fourth play, Trumpy went low to block an Illini defender and got his wrist caught on the player’s shoulder pad.
He knew immediately that the wrist was broken. He went to the sidelines and asked to be taped up. A brace also was put on the wrist, but it was too restricting and Trumpy asked that it be removed.
Playing with just a taped wrist, Trumpy stayed in the game and rushed for 129 yards on 13 carries and scored two touchdowns.
After the game, Trumpy’s wrist was X-rayed, but it took team doctors a couple of days to figure out that the wrist was broken.
Trumpy missed the regular-season finale Nov. 27 at Wisconsin — he stayed home — and didn’t play in the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 1 in Dallas against Texas Tech.
“Any time away from football just kills,” Trumpy said. “It was tough watching my teammates, and I have to cheer them on and help them even though I can’t play.”
But now, Trumpy is solid along with Adonis Smith and — when he gets healthy from an ankle injury — Jacob Schmidt. Also in the mix this spring are Tyris Jones and Providence High School product Tim Hanrahan.
“I think the five of us all bring something different to the table,” Trumpy said. “But you can never assume that you are ‘the guy’ — ever.”