MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – They say football is a sport for tough guys. Well, Jeff Braun showed his toughness last year playing the last half of the season with a torn labrum he sustained early in the Connecticut game.
Braun played all but two plays against the Huskies, and three weeks later, he played every single offensive snap against Louisville - impressive for a guy playing with basically one arm.
“What was actually good about the injury was after the UConn game we had a bye week and then we played Cincinnati,” Braun recalled last week from the Milan Puskar Center. “That whole bye week I didn’t practice and I didn’t know what was going to happen with me because we weren’t really sure what I did and I was nervous at first.
“It was killing me and I went back in during the UConn game in overtime and riding back on the plane it hurt,” Braun said. “In my mind, I didn’t know if I was going to play again for the rest of the season or what was going to happen.”
Then, the Tuesday before facing the Bearcats, Braun decided to give it a go during practice to see how much his shoulder hurt.
“It worked out good,” he said. “We just had to wrap it up every game and that was a pain. The games we played sometimes it would just pull out. That’s what happened in the Cincinnati game – it happened to me twice. I played the first half and they let me get some rest for the second half, which was good.”
Braun benefitted from West Virginia’s blowout win against the Bearcats and also a surprisingly easy victory against Pitt in Pittsburgh. He played just 44 snaps against Cincinnati and 43 snaps against Pitt.
“It was just a day-by-day thing,” Braun said. “Some days it felt good and some days it felt terrible.”
When it was determined that he could handle the pain and he wasn’t going to damage the shoulder any further, Braun chose to grit his teeth and play on.
“Sometimes it felt like I wasn’t even injured,” he said. “Other times I would pass block or run block and it would just give out. Sometimes (the pain level would be) a 10, maybe an eight – it just ranged.”
Braun said the decision to have off-season surgery was made after the Pitt game while the decision to repair teammate Donnie Barclay’s shoulder wasn’t made until after the bowl game against NC State.
“Me and Donnie, our relationship has grown since this whole thing happened,” Braun said. “He found out about his a few weeks after mine.
“Once he found out it kind of relieved me a little bit knowing that another one of my offensive line guys was going to have this,” Braun said.
While the rest of their teammates were working all of their body parts during the off-season conditioning program, Braun and Barclay were restricted to just certain exercises, meaning they usually worked out together.
“The stuff we do isn’t exactly what everybody else does,” Braun explained. “A lot of times it’s harder to get through it and we just stuck it out together. Now our bond has grown.”
Today, Braun feels like he’s operating with a brand new shoulder.
“(Last week) was five months from surgery,” he said. “I feel great. The doctors did a great job. (Last Tuesday) I did 315 on the bench, which is the most I’ve done (since the surgery). Five months after shoulder surgery I think that’s pretty good.”
Braun and Barclay are still not cleared for any overhead pressing or inclined benching, exercises that require them to push weight above their shoulders.
“Everything else is full-go,” Braun said. “In the spring we did our running, but since the summer started we have been doing our running and lifting just like everybody else.”
Braun estimates his shoulder is about 85-90 percent right now.
“By the time the season comes I will be perfect,” he predicted.
Braun played right tackle last year but a move to left guard is likely this fall with new offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh now having a full spring to evaluate his personnel. The junior is actually looking forward to the move even though senior Josh Jenkins, who is recovering from a knee injury sustained in the spring game, is a three-year starter at that spot.
“I’ve had talks with Coach Bedenbaugh a lot and even I know that guard and center are my natural positions that’s where I wanted to go and that’s where he wanted me to go and we just have to find out if we could afford to do it," Braun said. "Unfortunately, with Josh being hurt we don’t know what’s going on with him still, but it looks like I’m going to go to left guard and maybe center. It’s up in the air still.”
Where Braun is going to play this fall may still be up in the air, but he is confident his surgically repaired right shoulder will be good to go when call camp begins in August.Follow John Antonik on Twitter: @JohnAntonik