Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
As Terrapins football took the field at Ohio Stadium on Oct. 10, No. 90 was missing from the huddle of white jerseys.
Nearly 400 miles away, a bedridden Roman Braglio readied to watch his team take on the No. 1 ranked Buckeyes from the couch of his Woodstock, Maryland home.
Diagnosed with a mononucleosis infection just a few days before the Terps’ bout against the defending national champions, the defensive end felt helpless as he watched Ohio State march to a decisive 49-28 victory over his team.
“I couldn’t tell you how depressed I was watching the game on TV,” Braglio said.
With two sacks on the year – both of which came against South Florida – Braglio had established himself as an integral piece of Maryland’s front seven.
The unexpected diagnosis not only derailed the redshirt junior’s season, but left a gaping leadership hole on defense.
“He’s a vocal leader,” defensive end Yannick Ngakoue said. “He sets the tempo at practice and that’s what we were kind of missing like on the field as far as getting guys ready, pumping guys up.”
Coming off two total tackles and a fumble recovery against Michigan, Baglio’s disruptive presence was sorely missed against Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s arsenal of offensive weapons, who carved up the Terrapins defense for 499 yards.
A loss of appetite and an enlarged spleen was to keep Braglio out for up to three weeks, but that didn’t stop him from trying to push an early return.
“I was running every morning, trying to get my conditioning back up and trying to get my strength back and my appetite back,” Braglio said. “I was in the training room almost every morning trying to push the trainers like ‘Come on, I’m fine. My spleen’s fine. Just put me in.’ ”
When Braglio finally returned the Tuesday before Maryland’s game against Penn State, defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski said the pass rusher didn’t skip a beat.
“He was one of those guys that never really thought he was sick anyhow,” Dudzinski said.
As soon as the trainers cleared him, Braglio bolted to defensive line coach Chad Wilt’s office to catch up on anything he missed over his two-week absence.
It wasn’t long before Braglio returned to his old form. He totaled four tackles and deflected a pass in Maryland’s 31-30 loss to Penn State last Saturday.
While Braglio’s resilient return wasn’t enough to lift Maryland over the Nittany Lions, the defensive end came out of his sick bed with a renewed excitement for the remaining five games of the season.
“l feel Iike I was just stepping on the field for the first time of the season again,” Braglio said.
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