BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – Aaron Ramsey saw his promising redshirt freshman season cut short by a knee injury last fall.
He had been billed as one of the top-catching tight ends in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, and through six games showed he could be a weapon: 12 catches, 225 yards, 0 TD, but 18.8 yards per grab.
Then came the knee injury.
And then came the comeback, following surgery.
Ramsey, a Kansas native who was once a former quarterback, caught one pass in each of the first three games this season, but was utilized more as a blocker than he was a down-field threat.
He then broke through for a 5-reception, 49-yard effort in last Saturday’s come-from-behind win over Southern Illinois. Ramsey had the game-winning 5-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter that kept USD’s playoff hopes alive.
He chatted with the Press & Dakotan after Tuesday’s practice about the upcoming game with South Dakota State and coming back from the injury.
You’ve been through this game a couple times, with all that extra stuff on the side, but isn’t it nice going in with something to play for?
Oh for sure. It makes it that much better. We know what State is about and we know what we’re about, and both of us playing for a playoff spot makes it that much better.
It probably brings that game up to a different level, doesn’t it?
Last year, we had what, two wins, and our season was basically over. But adding that playoff piece to it, brings it to a whole other level.
That’s what you want to see in a rivalry game, right?
Definitely. It’s not going to be one-sided, or at least it shouldn’t be. We’d like it to be on our side, but it’ll probably be a close game.
Does it make a big difference than it’s a home game for you guys?
I think it does. Being in the Dome is awesome. Nobody likes playing up there (smiles). We’re not fans of that field. Definitely being here with our fans and the Dome atmosphere is huge.
What was that like last week for you, getting more involved in the pass game and playing a big role in the win?
It was good; felt good getting back to how it was last year before I got hurt. I’ve been grinding and I had to work out a few kinks from the surgery. It felt good to actually contribute, and in a big way.
Were there hurdles to overcome to get back in the flow?
The mental aspect was a big thing for me. They always talked to me about how the knee was fine, but the mental part was going to be hard. And I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be. Coaches would keep at me about doing this or doing that, and it’s been meeting with different coaches and working on different things.
Was the injury always in the back of your mind?
I think subconsciously. It wasn’t one of those things where I thought, ‘It’s going to hurt now,’ but even the coaches could tell that maybe I was a step slower because of it. Playing with the knee brace, it has definitely taken some getting used to. I didn’t wear it for most of the off-season, to try to get ready to play without it. But when it came time to play, I thought I better wear it. Nine games, I guess that’s what it took.
And nine games in and two more to go. What’s the key to beating South Dakota State?
Holding on to the football, big time. Defense has played great all year. They’ve given us the ball back, like last week. For us, it’s don’t turn the ball over on offense. Keep their offense off the field as much as possible and give guys like Gink (Andrew Van Ginkel) and Drew Iddings more time to do some damage.