Nick Bosa, pass-rushing from the right edge, went down as he tried to bend around the corner. He immediately knew something was terribly wrong.
Bosa comes from a football family, and football is his passion. He expected great things in what would be his final season at Ohio State. But, in a split second, it was over.
“When it happened, when I got home from that TCU game, I was laying in bed, I could barely get up,” he said of the left groin injury he sustained Sept. 15. “It was one of the darkest moments of my life so far.”
Bosa underwent surgery within a week to repair what his surgeon, Dr. William C. Meyers of Philadelphia, diagnosed as a bilateral core muscle injury.
“It’s a groin, lower abdomen thing,” Bosa said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “He repairs both sides because if you don’t repair both sides, then you risk the other side getting injured. I didn’t feel an injury on the other side, but they go in and clean it up. They stitch it up.”
The injury was particularly difficult to cope with, Bosa said, because it was constantly on his mind and impacted his most routine and mundane activities.
“The toughest part is the beginning,” Bosa said. “It’s such a unique injury in that it’s literally the muscle used to breathe, to cough, to go to the bathroom. It’s your core muscle. It’s something different than what I’ve dealt with before.
“It’s really gradual, small steps. Once you get through it, I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt right now.”
Bosa has returned to 100 percent health and competed in all of the on-field drills at the combine Sunday. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.79 seconds
One month after his surgery, Bosa withdrew from school to begin preparing for the NFL draft, rather than attempt to rush back onto the field too quickly and risk further injury. His spirits began to pick up over time, he said.
“For me to talk to my family and let them bring me up and let me know that my life is still good and I still have amazing blessings and a bright future, that’s what helped me get through it,” Bosa said.
Bosa lived with his brother, Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, in Orange County during the season. He's now back home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he continued his training and draft preparations at a deliberate pace.
“I knew I was going to have plenty of time to just take it slow,” said Bosa, who started jogging approximately two months after the surgery. “It was just a slow process. You break down scar tissue. You feel pops and stuff, which is not fun. You have to get all your flexibility back. Your abs are all mushy. Not fun.”
While his decision to leave Ohio State was seen in some circles as controversial, Bosa said he received full support from his college teammates and coaches, as well as NFL teams that were briefed on the details of his injury, surgery and rehabilitation. Even though Bosa said the decision was his only reasonable option, it still was difficult and agonizing.
“It was the year that I been waiting for my whole career,” said Bosa, who recorded three sacks in the first two-plus games before the injury. “I kind of split reps my freshman and sophomore years. Coming in, I was going to be the guy. I started strong my first three games, and it just got torn away from me. It’s something that I’ll always think back to.”
Bosa was considered the consensus most likely pick for the No. 1 overall spot in the draft for most of the past year. But Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray decided to focus on football over baseball, and the Arizona Cardinals appear to be a serious potential landing spot for Murray to run first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.
The odds are better than they’ve ever been that Bosa will be available when the 49ers select at No. 2 overall. The 49ers’ biggest need in the draft is an edge rusher. If the 49ers acquire Bosa, he would be expected to be an every-down defensive end from the moment he arrives in Santa Clara.
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Bosa is confident the particular injury that truncated his dream season no longer will be an issue during his NFL career.
“This is one of the injuries that once you get it fixed, it’s pretty guaranteed to be good,” he said.
Whichever team gets Bosa will add a hungry player. He appeared in just 29 games over parts of his three seasons at Ohio State, recording 17.5 sacks. Bosa did not have the opportunity to show how great he could become at the college level.
Now, he will just have to prove himself in the NFL.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. "I haven’t played football in quite some time."