How Ragin' Cajuns running back T.J. Wisham is recovering from wrist injury, surgeries

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

The middle child among seven siblings, T.J. Wisham knows what he’ll hear when the telephone rings and Michelle Wisham or Theodore Wisham Sr. is on the line.

“My mom and pops both always call,” he said, “and the first thing they ask is, ‘How are you doing?’

“Then … ‘How’s the hand? How’s the wrist? How are you feeling?’ We’ll talk about therapy, how that’s going. We’ll talk about football, how that’s going. Me and my daddy, we’ll talk sometimes about the Xs and Os.”

Lately, though, it’s more about the two surgeries he’s had to repair an issue much worse than many realized.

Shortly after Wisham was sidelined with a dislocated wrist last year, Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier suggested the key special teams contributor perhaps would return before the season ended.

 He never did.

“He had a very serious injury,” running backs coach Jabbar Juluke said.

“So we have to make sure he’s healthy – not just to play football, but longevity as well.”

Wisham injury involved nerve damage

The wrist wasn’t just dislocated. There was nerve damage too.

With that in mind Wisham, a contender to help replace exiting NFL Draft prospects Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas in UL’s running backs rotation, was wearing a no-contact jersey when spring practice opened last month.

WATCH:What Elijah Mitchell's blazing 40-yard dash time means for his NFL draft stock

The secret:How Cajuns running back Elijah Mitchell ran a fast 40-yard dash at pro day

He’s taking part in all drills, according to Napier, but no tackling is permitted.

“You have to be able to carry the football, take hits on it. You’ve got to fall down,” Juluke said. “So we’ve got to make sure he’s able to do those things. Right now we’re too early to tell if he can.”

Coming off two surgeries to repair his dislocated wrist, Ragin' Cajuns running back T.J. Wisham is taking part in spring practice in a non-contact capacity.

Wisham, injured during UL’s Oct. 23 win over UAB, said doctors “ended up having to do a complete repair on my left wrist.”

He missed the last six games.

“Obviously it was tough,” said Wisham, a product of Episcopal High in Baton Rouge who transferred to UL after playing three games for Army in 2017. “The first month and a half my hand was pretty immobile. I didn’t have much range of motion in my fingers at all. But the last month and a half has been tremendous with my recovery.”

Which is just what his parents want to hear.

“Other than some (contact) and some motion, it’s almost pretty much there,” Wisham said. “Sometimes with those nerves you can’t really control those, so that’s timewise just letting those heal.”

More:What you need to know about UL's 2021 spring football game

First half:Napier reveals his observations from Ragin' Cajuns spring practice

Next step with the Cajuns

Being limited this spring doesn’t necessarily set back Wisham, who had no carries with Mitchell, Ragas and Chris Smith handling the load last season.

“We know T.J. Wisham,” Napier said, perhaps recalling when he had 105 yards on 11 carries in a 2019 blowout win over Texas Southern.

“We’ve seen him for a number of years. We know exactly what we can get from him.”

A complete recovery is imperative, however, if Wisham is to be in optimal condition as he competes later this offseason with 2020 freshman Emani Bailey, former Texas A&M running back Jacobi Kibodi, walk-on Michael Orphey Jr. and four incoming high school signees for the right to join top returnee Smith in UL’s rotation.

More:How the Ragin' Cajuns plan to replace two running backs lost to NFL Draft

Loaded:What to know about the Ragin' Cajuns offense during spring practice

“It’s a journey,” Smith said of Wisham’s recovery.

“It’s going to be a challenge for him. But T.J., he’s a strong guy. … He’s gonna be able to come back and help us out.”

For three seasons at UL, including one as a redshirt transfer, Wisham has waited his turn, playing mostly on coverage and return teams.

Napier admires the patience.

“Now he’s working to earn more,” Napier said. “That’s what we all do. That’s the approach we hope every player on our team will (take).

“Sometimes you may not quite like your role, but embrace that, work really hard at it and try to earn more. … You’ve got to earn it around here, and T.J.’s a good example of that.”

Dedicated:Why Cajuns offensive lineman Ken Marks is back for rare seventh season

Now, though, Wisham’s ready for the next step – if the wrist allows.

“Through my role with special teams,” he said, “I think I’ve shown to be a tough guy, and I pride myself on being tough.

“I know I’m a powerful runner. When I stick my foot in the ground I get north and south. I’m not easy to tackle, and I pride myself on all those things.”

Although he’s still not carrying the ball in his left hand, Wisham anticipates being fully cleared for contact before preseason camp.

“Being back now I think I’ve gotten over those initial mental things,” he said.

“I pride myself on knowing what to do, so now it’s just getting that rhythm back, then getting back everything with the hand, with the wrist, just getting more comfortable while I continue to get stronger going into this summer.”