Wittenberg linemen take pride in returning from injury

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Alec Nutting and Zach Hoffman on 24-14 victory.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Zach Hoffman, Alec Nutting missed 2015 season

A year after their injuries, Wittenberg Tigers offensive linemen Alec Nutting and Zach Hoffman can look back on their bad breaks as strokes of luck.

That’s what Wittenberg’s 24-14 victory over Wabash on Saturday at Edwards-Maurer Field did for them. Nutting suffered a broken foot during the summer of 2015. Hoffman tore his Achilles tendon two days before the 2015 season opener.

Both players missed their senior season. They saw their fellow members of the class of 2016 graduate. They sweated and struggled for months together in the weight room to get back on the field.

“I couldn’t play 11 years of football and not play my final year,” said Nutting, who has returned to a starting role at center.

“I had to get to 15 (years),” said Hoffman, who’s playing in a three-man rotation at tackle.

There’s a long way to go this fall — seven games, to be exact — but their careers might end with the NCAC championship that eluded the seniors a year ago. The No. 17 Tigers share first place with DePauw and Denison. Each team is 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the NCAC.

A 42-14 loss at Wabash last fall doomed the Tigers in the NCAC. The victory Saturday makes them the favorite. They could claim their fourth title in five seasons. They return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday at Wooster.

“We came out with more energy and wanted it more,” Nutting said. “The big key is just keep grinding and keep coming out with energy and intensity. The season’s not over. We’ve got to keep going.”

Nutting, of Lakeland, Fla., is one of seven Tigers from the Sunshine State. He earned All-NCAC first-team honors in 2014 and then got hurt at home in Florida weeks before the start of last season.

“I injured my foot walking out of a doorway that I’ve walked through pretty much my whole life,” Nutting said. “I just stepped on it wrong and broke my fifth metatarsal and had a screw put in it. I was in a cast for two or three months. It just took forever. Coming back was a little rough. I was really fat and way out of shape. I was on my butt for four months. We got back in the swing of things and got running again. This program doesn’t let you be out of shape.”

Hoffman, a Beavercreek High School graduate who appeared in seven games in 2014, had surgery the day before the 2015 season opener against Capital. He knew his season was over as soon as the injury occurred.

“They tried moving my foot, and it wasn’t happening,” Hoffman said. “The swelling was thick. I really wanted to come back from that. Many guys don’t. I took a lot of pride in coming back. (Nutting) and I worked out. I took maybe two weeks off. We were hobbling together in the weight room on one leg making sure we got our lifting in. I just really wanted to come back and finish it out right.”

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