Jack Cichy’s two options after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in August were both far from ideal.
Either attempt to gain a sixth year of eligibility and be stuck in limbo about his future, or attempt a move to the NFL after missing the past 1.5 seasons due to injury without any guarantee he’d even be able to work out for scouts prior to the draft.
The University of Wisconsin inside linebacker chose the latter, and he’s ready to fight the uphill climb towards making a 53-man roster next season.
“I guess time will tell,” said Cichy, a former walk-on for UW. "As far as being drafted, that would be great. It’d be great to hear my name called, but if not, I think I’ll get a chance, and that’s all I really want, is a chance. That’s kind of how I started here (at UW), and if I get that chance, I’ll just work my tail off.
"I know if I do that then I won’t have any regrets."
Cichy missed the second half of the 2016 season with a torn pectoral muscle before tearing his ACL just weeks before the 2017 season began. Prior to the torn pectoral muscle, he had emerged as one of the Badgers’ best defensive players, recording 60 tackles in just seven games.
The timing of those injuries couldn’t have been worse. Since he played half of the 2016 season, his chances of earning a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA were likely slim.
"There’s no doubt that that was probably the lowest point in my life,” Cichy said. "I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. There was a lot of, ‘Why me? What did I do to have this happen again?’
"I’ve definitely thought, ‘What if?’ millions of times these past four months. When I look back at this season, that’s kind of where the what ifs happen, but when I look back at the whole picture, I experienced a lot and I’m extremely grateful for everything I experienced."
While Cichy didn’t announce his decision to enter the NFL Draft until December, he said Tuesday that he privately made the decision about a week after his ACL injury.
“There was really only one route where we really saw a real path down, just for my own sanity, having a set goal,” he said. "We just kind of decided that it would be best if I just focus on rehabbing the best I can and focused on the next level with that."
Cichy said he’s on track with his recovery. He’s back to doing squats and power cleans in the weight room. He’s also running, although not laterally yet. After the Badgers’ game against Miami in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, Cichy will travel to Phoenix to train at EXOS.
He said he’d love to participate in NFL Combine or UW Pro Day drills, which will be held roughly six to seven months after his ACL tear. If he’s unable to reach his maximum times, however, it wouldn’t benefit him to try.
In the end, he just wants a shot when he’s finally healthy again.
“The road’s going to be the road, whether I’m ready for combine or pro day stuff,” Cichy said. "I’d be great if I am, and if I were to be able to run times faster or as fast as I ran this past summer, I might consider it. If it’s not close to that, then I won’t even really consider it.
"I’m just going to try to be as smart as I can with it, and whoever gives me a shot, I’ll go from there."