Football: Austin linebacker is bouncing back from a big setback

Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Austin’s Jon Gallagher has rebounded from two season’s filled with injury to become a defensive force for the Packers this year. Eric Johnson/

Austin’s Jon Gallagher has rebounded from two season’s filled with injury to become a defensive force for the Packers this year. Eric Johnson/

Austin senior football player Jon Gallagher is no quitter.

He didn’t quit when he was hampered with injuries for most of his sophomore season, he didn’t quit when he tore his ACL before his junior season even began, and he’s certainly not about to quit now that the Packers are off to an 0-3 start.

Last season Gallagher was anticipating a big season when he went to a football camp in Minnesota State University in Mankato. Before Gallagher knew it, he was down and his season was done.

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“I was expecting to have the best year of my career last year,” Gallagher said. “Going into Winona State I felt good. All of the sudden, there was a bad cut, I popped it and it was over.”

Gallagher didn’t spend last year moping around and feeling sorry for himself. He spent it going through painful rehabilitation and he even went out for track and field just four months after his ACL surgery so he could get himself back in football shape.

All of that work has paid off for Gallagher, who has 44 tackles, one tackle for loss and two forced fumbles this season for the Packers. He starts at linebacker, he plays on special teams and he’s even lined up a little bit at running back.

Gallagher said he was a little scared to step on turf again during Austin’s season opener at Rochester John Marshall, but his worries were gone after the first series of that game.

Now he’s focused on making his mark on the field.

“I’m better than I was when I tore it. I’m faster and I believe I’m stronger,” Gallagher said. “Just to be on the field feels amazing. I know we haven’t won, but we’ve played hard.”

Austin head coach Brett Vesel said that Gallagher’s speed and strength stands out in every game the Packers play. Gallagher will become an even bigger force when he catches up to the defensive scheme.

“He’s learning right now. He’s getting better. He’s still not where we want him yet, but he goes hard and he gets after the ball,” Vesel said. “Once he gets it, he’s going to impossible to block.”

If there’s an Austin football player who can relate to Gallagher, it’s senior defensive back Seth Clasen, who had his season end with a knee injury in the Packers’ opening game. Clasen remembers Gallagher as a fast and athletic player when the two played together as freshmen and he said Gallagher has made big strides as a leader this season.

“We knew he was an athlete as a freshman and he didn’t get to prove it up until this year, but now that he’s back he’s living up to the standards that we expected,” Clasen said. “[After getting hurt] I definitely have a greater appreciation for [what Gallagher went through]. I never expected it to be me and that’s probably how all kids feel. Just knowing that Jon went through it too, it makes it easier on me and we can relate to each other.”

Gallagher is one of the hardest working players in practice for the Packers and he works hard on game nights as well. His efforts were evident on the last kick-off of the game against Rochester Mayo last Friday night. The Packers kicked to the opposite side of the field from Gallagher, but that didn’t stop him as he ran nearly 70 yards across the field to run down the Spartan returner and bring him down.

Gallagher said that kind of effort is the only way he knows how to play football.

“I don’t quit until they’re on the ground or until they blow the whistle,” Gallagher said. “I play my hardest. That’s the way I’ve been with everything. Life or football, I don’t quit.”

Gallagher has a lot of motivation this season as he’s hoping to catch the eyes of college coaches. He thinks he’ll get his chance, but he knows he only has a short amount of time to make his mark.

Vesel sees Gallagher as a college prospect as well.

“He’s got to figure out what position he’s going to play [in college]” Vesel said. “With his speed, a coach just needs to figure out where they’re going to put him. As long as he’s committed to do what it takes to go the next level, he’s got the skills to go to the next level.”