MADISON, Wis. - Junior linebacker A.J. Fenton left the Wisconsin football team for medical reasons, according to head coach Bret Bielema. Bielema said Fenton struggled with back problems before fall camp, and was forced to give up football when surgery didn't clear up the issue.
"Unfortunately, the surgery didn't work as well as we wanted, and [the injury] kind of came back," Bielema said after Thursday's practice. "He's currently not scheduled for surgery but it's something that might be in his future, and we just kind of put the decision in his hands."
Bielema said Fenton decided that moving on from football was in his best interests, and mentioned that Fenton's father also has a history of back issues. Bielema said Fenton would remain enrolled in classes at the university, where he is pursuing a degree in life sciences communication.
"Fortunately for us he's a really good student, he's already going to graduate in spring and move into the next phase of his life," Bielema said.
The news comes on the heels of a strong spring camp from Fenton, who impressed the coaching staff and seemed set to compete for playing time in the fall. Fenton recorded seven tackles in his Wisconsin career and forced one fumble against San Jose State in 2010. Most of Fenton's playing time came on special teams, but the Badgers seemed optimistic about him playing a larger role next season after senior linebacker Mike Taylor graduates.
"He really started to come on last fall during the course of the season," Bielema said. "Coach Buh and him hit if off, and he was playing exceptionally well."
Fenton's departure is the third medically related retirement of the season, after defensive tackle Jordan Kohout and linebacker Cody Byers were forced to give up football in the offseason. Both Kohout and Byers struggled with concussion-related issues, and it didn't seem like their departures made Fenton's retirement any easier.
"It's a tough deal for A.J," Bielema said. "[He's] one of our favorites."
"It's a reminder that our game can be very, very cruel at times."
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