All Matt Worzala wanted to do was play football.
He played one game his sophomore year before disloacting his left shoulder after trying to stiff-arm a St. Cloud Tech defender and then having it yanked out of its socket. Then the summer before his junior year, he disloacted his right shoulder after colliding with a teammate during hockey practice.
Worzala had to miss his entire junior year of football after the second dislocated shoulder. He elected to have labrum surgery on both arms. The labrum holds the shoulder in place and needed to be repaired on both arms with arthroscopic surgery.
The rehabilitation for each shoulder took about six months. He couldn’t have any contact until those sixth months were up.
“I had bad shoulders for a while, so it was just a matter of time before something like that happened,” said Worzala, a 6-foot, 210-pound starting linebacker/fullback for Sartell. “The first one didn’t hurt too bad. That shoulder was already really bad and had been getting worse as time went on. I played the rest of the game and had adrenaline going.
“The second one was during practice and wasn’t as high intensity. That hurt a lot worse.”
Mentally, not being on the football field for almost two year was torturous for Worzala.
“That was the worst part of it. I had missed one full year already and was getting ready to come back when the second one happened. I had been working really hard. It was a huge letdown,” he said. “At least I had my senior year to get back for. I think I’m playing well right now.”
Worzala hasn’t had any problems with the shoulders this year for the 4-1 Sabres. He leads Sartell with 23.5 tackles, has five tackles for a loss and three sacks.
As a fullback he has carried the ball 12 times for 47 yards with a TD and has four catches for 82 yards with a TD.
Worzala wears special straps underneath his pads to protect his shoulders.
“They’re like a harness on my shoulder that wraps around them. It limits the range of motion a little bit. They keep my shoulders high up so hopefully they won’t be dislocated again,” Worzala said.
First-year Sartell head coach Scott Hentges is glad to have Worzala on the field, especially on the defensive side.
“He’s a very intelligent kid who studies the game,” Hentges said. “He’s a good tackler and is always in the right spot. He has a good combination of size and strength to play on the edge. He runs running backs down and can drop back into pass coverage. He also has enough girth on him to take on fullbacks.”
Fellow linebacker/fullback Dylan Hollenkamp is glad to have Worzala back with him as a starting linebacker. The two grew up playing football together and it was hard for Hollenkamp to see Worzala on the sidelines for the past two years.
“He’s a huge asset to our defense,” Hollenkamp said. “He makes at least half of our plays and does a lot for our team. He’s a leader. He’s just a good athlete overall in general. I’ve played with Matt for a long time. It was hard not seeing him out at linebacker next to me. He’s easy to play with.”
Worzala admits to feeling like a rookie on the field sometimes because he has missed so much time over the years. But he feels like he’s at the level he needs to be at to continue to be successful.
“I’ve gotten back to where I wanted to be,” he said. “I always want to get better and get this team to play at a high level. We want to win every game.”
Worzala has had a good time in the backfield blocking for senior tailback Erik McAfee, who had 593 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns before missing last Friday’s loss to Fergus Falls with a hip pointer. Hentges didn’t know if McAfee would be ready for this Friday’s game against St. Cloud Tech.
“I alternate at fullback so we can get a lot of guys in there. Playing fullback is fun and you get to help the offense put a few points on the board,” he said. “McAfee is a great back.
“Sometimes it’s hard to block for him because he outruns you. He’s really smart back there and knows how to cut. Even if you don’t make the best block, he doesn’t have any problem finding a seam and hitting it hard.”
Hentges credited Worzala for being valuable on both sides of the ball.
“You could see that he really wants to be out there for his senior year,” Hentges said. “He’s such a competitive kid. He’s really consistent on both sides of the ball.
“He’s just a great, personable kid who can do a lot of good things for us. You can’t tell that he had any shoulder problems in the past. That’s how well he’s playing.”