Shayne Skov watched his Stanford teammates prepare for last year’s Fiesta Bowl from the sideline. The notoriously energetic linebacker learned the meaning of patience as his ruptured left knee recovered from ACL surgery.
“With guys like that — it’s hard on them,” coach David Shaw said. “They only know one speed. They only know how to go.”
But Skov will be hurtling all over the gridiron when Stanford takes on Wisconsin in the 99th Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. The Cardinal’s emotional leader rehabilitated his knee for almost a full year to be in position to help his team win the game that’s referred to as the “granddaddy of them all.”
Skov’s bar was set high for the 2011 season after he led the team in tackles as a sophomore two years ago. But expectations were dashed after he tore his ACL and MCL in the third game of his junior season.
“It was devastating,” said Patrick Skov, Shayne’s younger brother and a Stanford fullback. “He was just getting into the flow of the season with a lot of good things to come. To have it all taken away is one of the most frustrating things.”
Football players are used to pushing their limits, but to recover, Skov had to learn how to take things day-by-day, step-by-step.
“You want to go hard all the time, but there are certain times when your body is telling you it’s time to rest,” he said. “You gain a level of wisdom.”
The toughest part of the rehabilitation process was grappling with the idle moments. But Skov found solace in mentoring the team’s young linebackers A.J Tarpley and Jarek Lancaster.
“Shayne could have easily just sulked in a corner,” Shaw said. “When your leaders can be unselfish, I think it sets the tone for everyone else.”
The challenges multiplied after Skov was arrested for driving under the influence on Jan. 29. He was suspended from team activities for more than four months and was required to sit out the 2012 season opener against San Jose State.
“It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with,” Skov said. “The injury was one thing, but to not be around a group of people you’re so used to and accustomed to being with. ... And then all of a sudden you’re back and you have to earn their trust again.”
Skov returned to the field against Duke on Sept. 8 and recorded five tackles. He picked up six more a week later in the Cardinal’s 21-14 defeat of then-No. 2 USC. The explosiveness hasn’t returned to its pre-injury form yet, but Skov has compensated by becoming an even smarter player.
His value was on clear display when he registered a team-high of 10 tackles in the team’s Nov. 17 upset of then-No. 1 Oregon.
“He didn’t miss a tackle. He was everywhere,” Shaw said. “He set the tone for the game.”
Skov is eligible to return next year, but his mind is focused on the Badgers right now.
“I have a decision to make, but I’m not going to entertain concepts of it until after the game,” he said.