A Season on the Sidelines Gave Josh Dworaczyk New Perspective
Veteran players provide valuable talent and experience to any position on the field, but a player-turned-coach-turned-player is a whole different story.
Senior offensive lineman Josh Dworaczyk was gearing up for the 2011 season when he suffered a season-ending knee injury at fall camp.
"It was tough," Dworaczyk said. "It was definitely a devastating blow to my mentality. Physically, I was in pain because of my injury. Mentally, it was the fact that it was my senior season, and I didn't know if I was going to get another shot."
A true leader and role model, he was unable to play but unwilling to sit out. Once presented to him, the senior immediately seized the opportunity to serve as a coach to his teammates.
"I've seen a lot of things, and I've been through a lot of stuff," he said. "It's made me able to mentor guys and help them through certain situations."
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Dworaczyk developed a bond with his coaches from Day 1, as during a visit to campus, he met Greg Studrawa on "Stud's" first day as offensive line coach at LSU in 2007.
"I remember talking to Coach Stud about my career, about how we were looking forward to the season and about what we can do and what we can accomplish," Dworaczyk said. "Every single year, I've just been growing and growing right there along with him."
Their relationship strengthened last season when the lineman took on the role of a player-coach while Studrawa became LSU's offensive coordinator.
"I watched Coach Stud go from an offensive line coach all the way up to a coordinator," Dworaczyk said. "He's watched me grow from being a redshirt freshman all the way up to my senior year, and now as a sixth-year senior. Last year, we got really close because I was coaching with him. He taught me a lot of different things. We've had a great relationship, and hopefully it continues."
His year on the sideline gave Dworaczyk a new perspective of every snap, every play and every tackle, and he watched his teammates work together and grow together from a front row seat.
"I've seen everybody grow up, and it's great being able to be a part of who they are and what they are as an offensive line," he said. "Being a coach, I was able to help them on the sideline any way I could, and now I try to do the same on the field."
After the NCAA granted a sixth season to Dworaczyk, his coaching and mentoring did not stop. Aside from his talent and experience, his presence alone brings a level of comfort and confidence to his teammates.
"My role going into the season was just to be that guy that, whenever they needed me or whatever they needed me for, I was going to be ready for it," he explained. "I watched the team go out there last year and do all the things that they did and have such a great season. I felt like I was a part of it because I was helping coach, but at the same time I wasn't out there. This is my second chance."
His determination for success is for his team, and he knows its goals are attainable.
"I hope throughout the end of the season, we can say that we did everything that we possibly could," Dworaczyk said. "That's our goal and it's still right there in front of us."
With the injury he faced last year still fresh in his mind, one personal goal remains for the sixth- year senior to conclude his player-coach legacy.
"I just want to finish it on the field," he said. "I want to be able to play in my last game and walk off proud knowing that I gave it everything that I had."