UK Football

4 surgeries in 3 seasons ‘alarming,’ but UK’s Conrad says they’ve made him better

Forgive C.J. Conrad for not knowing which end was up in recent months.

Kentucky’s senior tight end went from having a foot surgery late in the season to having shoulder surgery a few months later.

That made every day a challenge.

“I was all messed up,” Conrad smiled as he explained his offseason during his time in the main media room at Southeastern Conference Media Days.

Having two different surgeries in opposite parts of his body made life complicated. The foot surgery forced him to miss UK’s regular-season finale and the Music City Bowl. Once that healed, he had surgery on his shoulder.

Conrad, who returns this season as UK’s leading pass catcher after managing 286 yards and four touchdowns on 16 grabs last season, would work out his upper body only while nursing the foot injury for four weeks, and then it flipped six weeks later.

All of that time away from teammates and the game he loves left Conrad in a reflective place.

“It’s a lot of alone time with your trainers and your strength coaches,” he said. “It gives you a long time to think about what you’re doing here, and what your goals are. I got a lot of time to reflect and I’m excited for this year.”

Conrad never had any kind of injury in high school, so suffering through four surgeries (both shoulders, foot and a sports hernia as a freshman) in three seasons “is definitely alarming,” he said.

“Overall, I have just had some bad luck, to be honest,” he said. “I’ve really taken care of my body this past six months, so I don’t think it will happen again at all.”

He’s trying to ensure it by gaining 15 pounds to go up against some of the league’s top defensive linemen. The senior reported he has gained 15 pounds this offseason.

“I play really hard, extremely hard, and sometimes that’s not for the best of myself,” he said. “I block a lot and it gets physical there.”

Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad was interviewed during the Southeastern Conference’s media days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Monday. John Amis AP

The tight end likes where he’s at now.

And his head coach likes where the tight end position group as a whole is now. Sophomore Justin Rigg has been fully cleared to play after suffering spleen lacerations in the spring, Mark Stoops said on Monday.

With Conrad and Rigg back plus two highly rated tight ends on campus in Brenden Bates and Keaton Upshaw, Stoops is excited.

“Definitely feel good about the group,” he said. “Definitely feel like we have some really big bodies, talented guys who really love the game, who like to do the dirty work. ... They’ll do what’s necessary.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader