CU Buffs’ Nate Landman feels better than ever – The Denver PostSeptember 1, 2021
For any athlete returning from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, the main question is not necessarily whether they’ll play again, but if they’ll be able to play at the same level they were at before the injury.
That’s the task in front of Colorado linebacker Nate Landman, who ruptured his right Achilles’ during a Dec. 12 game against Utah.
The All-American candidate is slated to make his return on Friday when the Buffaloes host Northern Colorado at Folsom Field (7 p.m., TV: Pac-12 Network) and he can’t wait.
“I’m definitely not the same player,” Landman said Tuesday. “I think I’m a better player.”
CU’s leading tackler the past three years aggressively attacked his rehab this year and said he’s gone through preseason practices without any setbacks and with an eye towards leading the defense once again.
“One (way of being better), being in the film room and studying and learning a new defense,” he said. “I learn new keys and things every day from my staff. So on the mental side, I’m way smarter than I was last year. And on the physical side, I feel faster and more explosive. I was even talking to (head coach Karl) Dorrell today and he thought the same thing.”
Tight end Brady Russell, who missed the bulk of the final five games of 2020 and spent much of the offseason getting himself ready, didn’t hesitate in agreeing with Landman.
“He’s looked better than ever,” Russell said. “Absolutely. That’s not an exaggeration either. He just rehabbed so hard. He worked so hard. Me and him kind of had a similar offseason. His obviously was worse, but it’s been fun working with him working back into things and trying to get back up to speed where we were. I think both of us have worked past where we were in the past. We’re a lot better and more mature players than we’ve been before.”
An improved Landman is a scary thought for CU opponents, but an exciting one for the Buffs. Although limited to only four-and-a-half games in 2020, Landman racked up 61 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and five sacks. In CU history, only two inside linebackers have had more sacks for an entire season.
Throughout the offseason, Landman has been focused on returning to the lineup and dominating like he has before.
“I’m excited to get out there and show everybody how the rehab process has gone and how that has come to fruition on the field,” he said. “All that eight months and all the people who have been in my corner working for me and allowing me to get where I am, all that coming into play, too, on the field on Friday.”
In July, Landman felt great but had yet to go through a practice. Although it took a couple of practices to get his “football feet” back, he’s felt good throughout August and said he doesn’t even think about his injury.
“In my opinion, I think I’m playing the best football of my career, even coming off this injury,” he said.
Now it’s time for the final step of his recovery: playing a game. He’s anxious and excited about facing the Bears on Friday.
“Those pre-game jitters always come into play and as soon as you hit somebody you’re ready to go and it’s time to go,” he said. “I think that those nerves and those jitters are what make you play better. It gets you excited for the game, gets you going, gets your body ready, and nothing but excitement for this first game, for sure.”
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