Healthy Shugarts Aiming to Prove Worth
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — J.B. Shugarts felt betrayed.
As the rest of his teammates sprinted for the tunnel at Ohio Stadium, Shugarts hobbled awkwardly off the field.
J. B. Shugarts
Photo by Dan Harker
He had felt this pain before, but after two years of battling foot injuries, Ohio State’s right tackle was growing discouraged with his constant struggle to stay on the field despite agonizing pain in his feet.
“I was always giving everything I’ve got; I was always giving 100 percent,” Shugarts said Tuesday.
“At times it was frustrating, but that’s part of the game. You have to deal with it. Every football player knows playing through injuries and when you’re hurt. It was tough but I got through it.”
Football players also know that there is a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. Despite long hours in the weight room and late nights of conditioning, Shugarts felt his body had betrayed him.
The former blue-chip prospect missed the last six games of his freshman season with a shoulder injury, but that was nothing compared to what he described as “bad joints” in his feet. Although he has been the team’s starting right tackle for the past two seasons, Shugarts was often forced to leave games in the second half after the pain of playing in the trenches became too overwhelming.
“I also had a mild turf toe, so it’s a nagging injury,” the 6-7, 300-pound tackle said.
“Getting it shot up for certain games and stuff, the recovery of a shot is really what’s hard to overcome besides the actual injury.”
His battle to stay healthy allowed the Buckeyes to develop some younger players at the position, including Marcus Hall in 2009 and Andrew Norwell last season. But if leverage is the key to playing up front, then Shugarts has never really had a chance to play on even ground against defensive ends like Adrian Clayborn and J.J. Watt.
He finally got the help he needed late in the 2010 season thanks to an orthotic in his right cleat, which allowed him to play at full-strength for the Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.
“I had to get in the right shoe and get some orthotics to take some pressure off joints and stuff,” he said.
“Last year at the beginning of the season I was really healthy. I played real good and towards the end of the season I was back on my game. I am 100 percent and I’m ready to prove how good of a player I can be.”
With the foot feeling better, Shugarts dealt with a nagging shoulder injury in the spring that kept him out of Ohio State’s spring game. He has been rehabbing both the shoulder and the foot this offseason and expects to enter fall camp at full strength for the first time in years.
“It’s behind me, for sure. 100 percent,” the Texas product said.
“I don’t really have any concerns with it as of now. I’m 100 percent, I’m not limited at all and I’m doing everything that I’ve got to do. I’m ready to play.”
It is a good feeling for Shugarts, who has yet to fully live up to the hype he had coming out of high school. This will be his third season as a starter on the right side of the line, but false starts and the injuries have kept him from being consistent over the past two seasons.
With one more shot at greatness, Shugarts is thankful to have a fair shake at his last go-around.
“It’s huge, this is my last year, my senior year,” he said of being healthy.
“I’ve been working really hard and I can’t wait to get back on the field to prove some people wrong.”
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