Indiana offensive lineman Matt Bedford knew it right away when he tore his ACL in the first half against Illinois during the season opener a year ago.
Quick testing on the knee erased all doubt. Bedford’s 2022 season was over in the blink of an eye.
After a full offseason of preparation, it was a situation where most players would take off their pads, and sulk away from their teammates and the bright lights.
So why did Bedford emerge from the halftime locker room still in his full uniform, pads, helmet and all?
“In the game I knew (it was a torn ACL),” Bedford said. “But I had freshmen coming in, and Parker (Hanna) needed to get in and play, and those guys needed help. So I was gonna be there.”
No one would know better than Bedford what it feels like to be pressed into service early due to an injury.
As a true freshman in 2019 he had the unenviable task of stepping in for four-year starting tackle Coy Cronk when Cronk suffered a season-ending leg injury. Bedford started the final eight games of the season on an eight-win bowl team, and he was named the team’s offensive newcomer of the year.
So he knew exactly what his teammates needed a few years later when he was the one with a serious injury. And it wasn’t sorrow. So he stayed in full uniform and did what he could.
“It’s leadership. Your brothers need you. Period,” Bedford continued. “I know I physically can’t go, but emotionally, I’m still here. I’m still able to lift guys up, I’m still able to push guys forward. Focus on the guys that are having a tough time, and help them through that. When you’re going through adversity, you need to focus on the people around you, not on yourself. Don’t be selfish.”
Fast forward a year, following a long, frustrating rehab, and Bedford faced adversity once again. This time before the season even started.
Cronk transferred from IU in part because of Bedford’s success at tackle. Cronk was likely going to end up playing guard if he stayed in Bloomington for his fifth season in 2020.
Now in Bedford’s fifth and final season at IU, he was faced with much the some dilemma.
Bedford has been moved all over place during his IU career, at both tackle spots and on the interior of the line. He’s played for three different offensive line coaches during his time at Indiana.
Well into the 2023 fall camp, Bedford was expecting to be back at tackle. That was until new line coach Bob Bostad saw a combination he liked better, and swapped Kahlil Benson out to tackle, and Bedford to guard.
To the surprise of many, Bedford and Benson debuted at guard and tackle, respectively, against Ohio State.
“About midway through fall camp, that transition transpired,” offensive coordinator Walt Bell said on Monday. “And I think some of that had to do with (reserve OL) Max Longman being out the last week or so of fall camp. It’s just trying to get the best five on the field.”
It was no small thing to be asked to make a position change just days before your final season of eligibility.
But inside the program, there was little doubt how Bedford would handle it.
He showed what he was all about a year ago, when he kept his pads on and tried to help his teammates.
“Matt’s a class act. That’s the one thing that I think is important that everyone understands about Matt Bedford, just how all in he is about Indiana,” Bell said.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s got NFL potential that you asked to move to guard a week and a half before the season, and he’s like ‘yeah, I’m good, let’s go.’
“So he’s a special kid, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to be the best we can be.”
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