Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/25/12
MINNEAPOLIS Troy Stoudermire had no choice but to play the waiting game. In the end, he got the result he wanted.Stoudermire, a senior cornerback and kick returner for the University of Minnesota football team, suffered a season-ending arm injury early during the Gophers' 2011 season. He played in just four games before he was shut down for the remainder of the year. But the NCAA granted Stoudermire a medical hardship waiver earlier this month, meaning he'll have a fifth year of eligibility and will rejoin the Gophers for the upcoming season."When my coach called me and told me I was coming back and he told me they accepted my medical hardship, my heart just dropped and I felt like a lot of weight just got off my shoulders," Stoudermire said Friday, when the Gophers unveiled their new uniforms. "I felt so relieved. I've been waiting on this for so long, ever since that third game."Stoudermire was injured against Miami (Ohio) in the third week of the season. He attempted to play with the injury the following week against North Dakota State, but he ultimately was sidelined for the rest of the year. That meant watching from the sidelines with his right arm in a sling as his Gophers teammates struggled early on before winning the final game of the year to finish 3-9."I tried not to think about it too much because it was a real big mind over matter thing," Stoudermire said. "Seeing my teammates go out there and play and seeing the tough battles they fought in, I wish I could have been in them. My arm was too hurt to play. It was hard to watch them go out there each and every Saturday and play without me."His teammates sensed that the injury was getting Stoudermire down."I could definitely tell it was bugging him just to sit out and not be able to help the team," said junior linebacker Mike Rallis. "Not knowing his future definitely was tough for him, but he kept a great attitude throughout it. He was a team player throughout it, stayed positive throughout the whole thing. That was really good to see."Before the injury, Stoudermire was Minnesota's top return man. During the 2011 season, he broke the Big Ten record for career kick return yards and ended the year at 3,102 yards. He averaged 21.6 yards per kickoff return this season on eight returns. As a junior, he had a career-long 90-yard kickoff return against Illinois and became Minnesota's career kickoff return leader that season.When Stoudermire went down, the Gophers relied on several players to handle kickoff return duties. Wide receivers Malcolm Moulton and Marcus Jones both returned 13 kicks, while senior running back Duane Bennett had 11 returns.Aside from returning kicks, Stoudermire was also a key member of the Gophers' secondary, an area in which Minnesota lacked experience. Even though he played in just four games, Stoudermire still finished the year with a team-high two interceptions. He added 24 tackles, three tackles for loss and three pass break-ups before injuring his arm.All of that came in Stoudermire's first full year at cornerback. He was used primarily as a wide receiver during his freshman and sophomore seasons."It's great to see him get another year. Just for him personally, just because first of all he's never gotten a full year at corner," Rallis said. "I'm just excited to see what he can do with a full season at corner, getting better. He brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the field and he's really stepped up and become a leader of this team."While Stoudermire brings a spark to the Gophers on the field, head coach Jerry Kill was more impressed with how Stoudermire handled himself off the field, especially after the injury."The young man did a tremendous job in the classroom, had a 4.0 GPA and really focused and concentrated," Kill said. "When you have a tough season and then you get injured and so forth, sometimes that doesn't always happen. I think Troy's applied himself. We're certainly going to challenge him to continue to get better and keep up with that consistency. But we're very proud with the progress and we're certainly glad he's got another year."
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