MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Waddle begins running; graduation walk up next

Posted May 15, 2015

LaAdrian Waddle is about to finish a busy week that had an important step in his offseason rehab from knee surgery and will reach a personal high point with a walk across the stage.

LaAdrian Waddle is about to finish a busy week that had an important step in his offseason rehabilitation program from knee surgery and will reach a personal high point with a walk across the stage in one of the most fulfilling moments of his young life.

Waddle began running for the first time this week in his recovery from surgery performed on his left knee in mid-January. After four months of treatment from the medical and training staff that has worked with him in the Dallas suburb of Denton, running was a significant step forward.

LaAdrian WaddleOT LaAdrian Waddle (Photo: Gavin Smith / Detroit Lions)

Waddle felt like he was ready to ramp up his rehab program earlier, but he stuck to the prescribed program to avoid doing anything that might cause a setback in his recovery. Waddle is going into his third season as the starting right tackle on the Lions’ offensive line, and his focus is on being at full strength when the season opens in September.

“It’s hard to hold back,” Waddle said in a telephone interview. “I’m not going to lie. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do. There’s no point in pushing it and doing something stupid and make everything you did worth nothing.

“I’m pushing it as much as I can push it.”

Waddle has done his rehab in Dallas, rather than in Allen Park during the Lions’ offseason workout program, because of the intense personal attention he can get from a staff that does not have 90 players to tend to.

On a personal level, Waddle pushed himself academically by taking online courses this year to finish work on his undergraduate degree from Texas Tech. He promised his mother, Christine, he would get it when he signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

Waddle majored in University Studies, with three concentrations in sociology, organizational leadership and exercise and sports studies.

Waddle knows how much pride he and his mother will feel when he gets his diploma in the graduation ceremony at United Supermarkets Arena on his school’s campus in Lubbock. He also looked forward to being part of a group of students sharing the same experience. That’s unlike being an athlete in the spotlight.

“My mother was getting on me as soon as I came out in the draft,” Waddle said, laughing, about being pushed to get his degree. “I was so close to finishing. I made a promise. She’ll be proud. It’s definitely a happy day.

“Being a part of something like that (graduation), especially at the University – it’s a great thing. You’re with people who worked as hard as you did. Being announced together, you’ve got a feeling of what they went through.”

Waddle has overcome injuries and being snubbed in the draft to earn his position on the Lions’ offensive line.

From the first day of rookie camp in 2013, Waddle made an impression with his size and overall ability. He wound up starting eight games as a rookie and 10 in 2014, when he was the opening-day starter but had his season cut short twice by injuries.

Waddle is taking nothing for granted, but there is nothing to indicate he’s not considered the incumbent right tackle unless he’s not healthy enough to start the season.

“There’s never a position that’s set in stone,” Waddle said. “When I performed, I performed at a high level. I look forward to getting back. What you’ve seen in the last couple of years, it’s about me staying healthy. That’s something I’m working on.”

He doesn’t have to work on plans for what to do with his diploma.

“We’re going to get that thing framed,” Waddle said. “That thing means a lot.”