To say that this past week has been big for Tre Madden would be an understatement.
From the Trojans’ first players-only passing session of the winter on Tuesday to the first coaches-led conditioning workout on Thursday, the rising redshirt sophomore running back showcased hints of the power and speed that helped make him the story of last spring -- until he went down with an injury in April.
He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that would require surgery, forcing Madden -- who lined up at linebacker as a freshman -- to miss the entire 2012 season.
But after rehabbing and working himself back into shape for the better part of a year, Madden was back in action.
“It feels amazing to be back with the team and running,” Madden said. “Running, especially, I appreciate that a lot more now that I went through everything that I did. I really missed being out on the field. It was hard last year to just be on the sideline and watch.”
And while Madden already looks good to go as a member of the Trojans’ running back corps, every effort is being made to ensure that the former Mission Viejo (Calif.) standout doesn’t jump back into the flow of things a little too soon. It’s precisely for that reason that he still isn’t cleared to participate in the more physical aspects of the upcoming slate of spring practices -- something that isn’t likely to change until the start of fall camp.
“I’m cleared for everything but contact, so I’ll get out there, catch balls, run routes and get the offense down,” Madden said.
Still, after all that he’s been through, the fact he’s simply taking part in any drills this winter and spring is impressive and reason for optimism when it comes to his potential impact in 2013.
Set to join Silas Redd, D.J. Morgan, Javorious Allen as well as incoming freshmen Justin Davis and Ty Isaac, Madden figures to be a key component of a much deeper USC running back unit than the 2012 version.
“We’ve got a lot of guys with specific talents, and we know that our coaches are going to use us to the best of our abilities and help the team,” Madden said.
Davis, who is enrolled at USC and taking part in team workouts, has already made a positive impression on Madden.
“He’s a great athlete, a hard worker,” Madden said. “He doesn’t talk too much, but that’s good as a freshman. He just wants to learn from everyone and work hard. He just puts his head to work and goes out there.”
But not everything has gone smoothly for the USC running backs this offseason. It was less than two weeks ago that they learned of the departure of their position coach, Kennedy Polamalu. And while the loss of one of the most respected members of the staff has affected each member of the unit, Madden is intent on staying focused, and also eager to meet the replacement, who’s expected to be named soon.
“We’re going to miss Coach Polamalu, but we’re not focused on what we’re missing -- we’re focused on getting ready to meet our new coach on Sunday, and to keep getting out here and working,” Madden said.
With that determined mindset, it’s no wonder Madden’s road to recovery has taken him full circle. And to be sure, no one is more appreciative than he is.
“I’m very thankful,” Madden said. “I’m blessed to be able to still play football. It really opened my eyes. I appreciate every play now, every opportunity to work out, to be out here with the team, to be at SC and to be on the field. It’s a great opportunity.”