CORVALLIS — Day after day, Roman Sapolu rolled around practice on an ankle/knee cart.
What began as a season of promise for him last September as he started the first two games at right guard for Oregon State ended when he suffered a Lisfranc injury (midfoot fracture) to his left foot.
Instead of taking the field with his teammates, Sapolu had to go through surgery and then spent the rest of his junior season in the rehabilitation process.
Sapolu is back in practice without the cart this spring.
“It’s awesome. Sitting out those couple months was rough watching my teammates work when I couldn’t,” said the 6-foot-2-inch senior from Huntington Beach, Calif.
“I’m glad to be out there with them. It’s a good feeling.”
Getting back in time for spring ball was not in question, but Sapolu said doctors were not sure if he would make it by the start. He knew it was going to be a process to get to that point.
“But we started from the beginning with water running therapy and we progressed from there and everything went well,” he said.
Sapolu was already in the midst of working to gain strength and size when the injury hit. The time off has not helped in that regard, so he has some catching up to do before preseason practices in August. Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said that at this point Sapolu needs to be ready to back up everyone in the middle of the line. That means gaining some strength.
“It’s improved, but you’re playing against Division I defensive linemen, so it’s not where it needs to be,” Cavanaugh said. “And it showed up at times last year.”
Sapolu has been putting in as much weight training as possible. He said he weighs about 280 and wants to add 10 pounds by preseason camp.
“I’m trying to go in extra when I can, trying to work with the weight coaches more and more to get the strength back,” he said. “And extra film room and all these drills out here help to knock the rust off.”
With the injury, it will take a little time for Sapolu to get to the level he is working toward.
“He’s battling through it. That’s the tough part about it,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s got to get healthy and he’s got to get stronger. He’s got the whole summer.”
Sapolu switches between center and guard to add depth for the Beavers. With Isaac Seumalo and Josh Mitchell sitting out the spring with injuries, it is a good chance for Sapolu to focus on his game.
“I think it’s a good thing to get more reps,” he said. “But as a whole we have a young group and they’re all getting thrown in the fire and I think in the long run it will be better for our depth.”
Sapolu said he is going to spend the summer in Corvallis and work out with his teammates.
He has another week of spring practice, and then the Beavers’ spring game on May 3, before he goes into offseason mode.
“I want to let it loose,” he said. “I want to feel like I’m comfortable again and back to 100 percent before we start our offseason training. I’m almost there, so it’s pretty encouraging. Two more weeks and hopefully we can let it loose.”