New London - Jake Wawrzyniak, who sprained his left ankle the week before, wasn't supposed to be available to play Saturday for the Coast Guard Academy football team at Westfield State.
Then, maybe, he was going to play a little.
"I spent three hours in the training room every day last week. I told coach (Ray) LaForte (offensive coordinator), don't be surprised if I'm ready to go," said Wawrzyniak, a sophomore running back. "By Thursday I was about 80 percent and still probable.
"They said if I looked good in warmups, I could play. I had a lot of tape on my ankle. But when it came time, I felt ready to go."
Regardless of how Wawrzyniak looked in warmups, he looked really good in the Bears' 31-27 win over Westfield.
Wawrzyniak carried the ball 32 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns, as well as catching six passes for 28 yards.
"It's like something Yogi Berra would have said, 'Once you're reliable, we're going to rely on you,'" head coach Bill George said Wednesday of the 32-carry performance. "He's playing on a hurt ankle and with banged up ribs. He's tough as heck. I always knew that."
Wawrzyniak, who played football and for a state championship hockey team at St. Francis de Sales High School in Toledo, Ohio, led Coast Guard a year ago with 10 kickoff returns for 188 yards.
Entering this season, Wawrzyniak, who is 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, was still the backup running back to fleet junior Tyler Hames, who led the team with 128 carries for 683 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Hames, however, suffered a knee injury on Sept. 15 at MIT.
That was the day that Wawrzyniak, who had 35 carries for 143 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-21 victory, became Mr. Reliable.
"I just kept quiet until I got a chance to prove myself," Wawrzyniak said. "I was here for summer school, so I had a chance to work out every day.
"I just tried to prove I can run at the same level Tyler was running. I'm a hard runner. I seem to make the cuts at the right times. I'm not as fast as Tyler, but I try to have a burst of speed when you need a burst of speed."
Wawrzyniak leads Coast Guard (3-3 overall, 2-2 in the New England Football Conference Bogan Division) with 107 carries for 410 yards and eight touchdowns, also first on the team and third in the NEFC in scoring. He's added 21 catches for 137 yards.
The Bears, averaging 442.2 yards per game on offense, take on Worcester State (5-2, 3-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Worcester.
George said the only reason the Bears didn't employ a two-back system using Hames and Wawrzyniak this season was to cut back on the chance of injury for either one of them.
"No, no, no," said George, asked if he was surprised at Wawrzyniak's production. "I just don't think of Jake as a second-string back. I think he's exceptional.
"When you see Tyler run, he has this blazing speed, but Jake has this gift of running the football. 'How do I hit the hole? How do I make my cut?' He's got a gift. He knows how to run the ball in tight situations. He's banged up. And he's toughing it out."