Trumpy triumphs over torn ACL

Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy has battled back from a knee injury last year to make an impact for the Wildcats this season. He has 58 carries for 294 yards and two scores so far this year.

Daily file photo by Kaitlin Svabek

Northwestern running back Mike Trumpy has battled back from a knee injury last year to make an impact for the Wildcats this season. He has 58 carries for 294 yards and two scores so far this year.

Rohan Nadkarni, Assistant Sports Editor

Few words bring more smiles to Northwestern fans on a Saturday afternoon than a perfect rendition of “Mike Trumpy the ball carrier!”

Trumpy, the Wildcats’ redshirt junior running back, is now in his fourth year in the football program.

In his first full year on the team, the Wheaton, Ill., native put up the best numbers of his career. He played in 11 games and racked up 530 yards on 116 rushes as well as four touchdowns. Last season, Trumpy entered the year as NU’s featured running back. He played well during his first three games of the season, carrying the ball 35 times for 182 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

But on Oct. 1, 2011, the tone of Trumpy’s season changed when he suffered a torn ACL against in-state rival Illinois. Trumpy underwent knee surgery Oct. 13 and returned this season with a clean bill of health.

“I’m just trying to do everything I can to help the team,” Trumpy said. “I have all the trust in my knee. It’s feeling perfectly fine, it doesn’t get sore anymore.”

Trumpy’s “help” in 2012 has led to NU having one of its best rushing attacks in school history. Although Trumpy gave way to junior Venric Mark as the team’s featured runner, he still contributes in numerous ways.

The 6-foot, 210-pound Trumpy mainly acts as a change-of-pace back, totaling 58 carries for 294 yards and two touchdowns, and a solid 5.1 yards per carry average. As a team this year, the Cats have run for 237.6 yards per game, good for 14th overall in the country.

“The offensive line is playing really well this year,” Trumpy said when asked about the success of the running game. “They’re coming together. They have a lot of confidence in each other and we have a lot of confidence in them.”

Trumpy’s impact in the passing game has been two-fold. He frequently acts as a pass-blocker in shotgun formations, not only stopping blitzing defenders but also clearing the way for junior quarterback Kain Colter on quarterback draws. Trumpy has also served as a reliable receiver from the backfield, catching 8 passes for 56 yards, including a 3-reception, 28-yard game on the road against Penn State.

“Mike’s done a great job. His attitude has been terrific,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said before the Michigan game.

Mark, who took the reins from Trumpy going into this season, still maintains a friendly relationship with his sidekick in the backfield.

“We’re good friends, we all learn from each other,” Mark said. “Mike is a great running back. He runs hard. Of course, he’s a lot bigger than me. Friendship-wise I think he’s a great guy.”

Trumpy’s experience has been key to the running backs’ meeting room. It also means he has seen the shift of the NU offense from a vertical attack to one based more on the ground. Last season, the Cats averaged about 70 yards fewer in their rushing attack than they have this year.

“I think we’ve always had a pretty good rushing attack,” Trumpy said. “I guess you could say we’re running the ball more this year. It’s nothing we’ve really thought about at all.”

But more important than any statistic is Trumpy’s ability to stay on the field this year. If he makes it to the last game against Illinois — the team that cut his season short last year — Trumpy will have played in every match and will have an opportunity to play in NU’s bowl game to end the season.

“I’m just happy to be back.” Trumpy said. “Last year was very rough. The year before I missed two games with a broken wrist. I’m just happy to be back, feeling healthy and helping out the team.”