Albany

Knee procedure paying off for UAlbany football’s Gattuso

Coach dealt with severe pain for years before knee replacement
UAlbany football head coach Greg Gattuso directs players during Monday's practice.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
UAlbany football head coach Greg Gattuso directs players during Monday's practice.

ALBANY — During University at Albany football practices in past years, it had become a semi-regular routine.

After starting out on his feet, head coach Greg Gattuso would move into a golf cart to drive around the turf at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, speeding along to check on one position group after another. Eventually, Gattuso would take the cart out of the stadium, and head up to a perch behind one of the stadium end zones from where he could see the entirety of the field. Later, he’d return to the field to wrap up practice.

That routine is no longer. All that riding around in the cart has been eliminated, and Gattuso is thrilled that’s the case. 

“That’s a celebratory thing for me,” Gattuso said earlier this week. “I don’t need it anymore.”

In past years, the 57-year-old Gattuso dealt with severe knee pain that limited his ability to move around practice without using a cart. Some days were worse than others for the former Penn State defensive lineman, and there were plenty of nights where he struggled to sleep because of the pain. Last February, he had a knee-replacement surgery on his right knee, and Gattuso said that procedure removed “70% — maybe 80” of the pain he had been dealing with during the last few years.

“I feel re-energized by not being in pain all the time,” said Gattuso, who said he plans to undergo a similar procedure on his left knee after the conclusion of UAlbany’s 2019 season that starts Thursday at Central Michigan. “My focus is on the kids and what we’re doing, and not on trying to alleviate pain with every step. I feel great.”

Last December, several weeks after a 3-8 season had concluded for UAlbany, Gattuso said a major reason he’d planned his surgery was so he could be more active during practices. Gattuso — whose contract with UAlbany is through the 2022 season — has worked extensively with the team’s defensive linemen this preseason, but redshirt senior offensive lineman Griffin Clancy said there has been a teamwide benefit to Gattuso being able to be more actively involved in practices on a day-to-day basis.

“When he’s on the field and vocal, I think things are more up-tempo,” said Clancy, a Saratoga Springs High School graduate. “Everything is sharper.”

In the past, Gattuso said he tracked his steps to try to limit the pain he experienced.

“Anything over 3,000 steps is where the pain would begin,” Gattuso said, “and anything over 7,000 steps was really painful.”

On game days? Gattuso said he tried to stay off his feet as much as possible before kickoff, but still generally took between 10,000 and 15,000 steps on those days.

“I couldn’t really walk after games,” Gattuso said.

He expects that to be different this year.

“On game days, I’ll still try to save steps just because it’s worth it, but I don’t think I’ll have to be as cautious with it,” Gattuso said. “I’ll be stiff and sore [after games], but I won’t have the agonizing pain and not be able to sleep at night.”

The 6-foot-2 Gattuso said he started to lose weight in advance of his February procedure, and he has continued to trim pounds as he’s become more mobile. During the last year-plus, Gattuso said he has lost approximately 50 pounds and is now around 300 pounds.

“I feel great,” Gattuso said, “and I’m coaching harder. . . . Next year, heck, I might be sprinting around the field.”

UAlbany was picked to finish last this year in the CAA, but Gattuso said at his program’s media day last month that “we feel like we have a team that can make the playoffs, for sure.” Throughout this preseason, UAlbany’s sixth-year head coach has been encouraged with his team’s progress — and how he has felt while trying to lead the team’s turnaround.

“This camp has been the best I’ve been in a long time,” Gattuso said.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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