Opelt determined to finish career on a high noteWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior seasons are composed of the stuff that dreams are made of. That has not been the case for UT senior quarterback Aaron Opelt.
“It is unfortunate that has happened to me,” Opelt said. “If it was my left shoulder, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but you can’t look at it that way.”
The shoulder in question, Opelt’s throwing shoulder, has been on the mend since he injured it during the Western Michigan game. The Rockets signal caller was trying to gain a few yards, when he was tackled. Opelt landed awkwardly on his shoulder, creating a partial tear in his rotator cuff.
“It has been frustrating for me. It sucks,” Opelt said. “But that’s football and that’s life. Stuff gets thrown at you all the time and you just have to figure out a way to get through them.”
However, the Fremont native’s time to conquer the nagging injury is quickly running out. Before the Nov. 20 game against Eastern Michigan, Opelt’s understudy, freshman Austin Dantin, was given the reigns to the offense to start the game. That meant that Opelt watched the majority of his final game in the Glass Bowl from the sidelines instead of being lined up under center.
“You always look back and say ‘what if,’ he said. “I was trying to make a play, and I was just doing what any other player what have done. If I could go back in time and change things, I would, but it is one of those things that you can’t change. You just have to rehab and get better.”
Since Opelt’s injury, things have not gone well for the Rockets, either. The team is 3-4 since its starting quarterback went down. A season that started out with much promise has quickly taken a detour for the worst. UT needs to win its final two games just to qualify for postseason play and to accomplish a winning season for Toledo, which is something the team has not done during Opelt’s tenure with the Rockets.
“We want to send them out as a winning team and give ourselves an opportunity to be 6-6 and play in a bowl game,” said head coach Tim Beckman
One of those wins will need to come in the battle of I-75 on Nov. 27. The Rockets will need to beat their arch nemesis, the BGSU Falcons, to even have a chance at a postseason bowl berth.
“It seems like just yesterday we were playing against BG in the Glass Bowl for the first time,” Opelt said. “We love to play in that game and play for the peace pipe. It is always a big game anytime we take the field against them.”
With the added pressure of a winning season and post season play for the Rockets hinging on the outcome of the contest at Doyt Perry Stadium, the team knows the 2009 version of the rivalry game takes on even more significance than usual.
“We know that everything rides on that game,” Opelt said. “It is huge for us. If we could get that sixth win and get to a bowl game that would be awesome.”
Beckman, who has been on the other side of this rivalry when he was an assistant coach with the Falcons, recognizes the sense of urgency, too.
“Having been able to be a part of some of the other rivalry games, this one ranks right up there,” Beckman said. “Winning this game would give us a boost into our winter workouts, and it would mean that we would accomplish our goals. It also means we get to spend extra time with these 19 seniors preparing for a bowl game. If we don’t get that sixth win, we miss out on many opportunities that we could have, so we have got to do it.”
The first-year head coach also recognizes that in large part his team needs a healthy Opelt to make the goals the team set forth a reality.
“He is a competitive guy and his drive has had a lot to do with us winning the games we have won this season,” Beckman said. “He has so much to do with the success we have had this season, and since he has been hurt, we have struggled. I think our record since he has been out really kind of speaks to how important he is to our football team.”
Despite the hardship and the grim prognosis for his shoulder, Opelt is determined to lace up his cleats, slap on the pads, don the midnight blue and gold one more time and finish his career as a Rocket with a victory over Bowling Green. The senior quarterback wants to have the last word and write the storybook ending to what has been anything but an ideal final season.
“I’m not ready to give up yet,” Opelt said. “I have not even thought about not playing. I am doing whatever I have to do, and I am going to continue to do that. I am going to fight, claw and scratch to get back out there.”