Local draft prospect Troy Fumagalli more than story about his missing finger

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Wisconsin TE Troy Fumagalli. (Getty)

Troy Fumagalli and his friends fooled nearly everyone in woodshop class at Scullen Middle School in Naperville.

“We put on this act,” Fumagalli said. “I got [my finger] chopped off.”

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With some fake blood, it worked. Fumagalli described their eighth-grade stunt as “a big operation.”

“It was successful,” he said. “Some of the kids were scared and kind of freaked out. It was funny.”

What some students didn’t know was that Fumagalli always had been missing part of his left index finger. It was amputated at the knuckle after his birth because of Amniotic Band Syndrome, a condition in which stringlike amniotic bands wrap around appendages in the womb and restrict blood flow.

“It’s honestly not a big deal at all,” Fumagalli said. “It’s funny because it has blown up now, getting ready for the next level. Growing up, it wasn’t talked about. High school, it wasn’t talked about. College, very little.”

The next level for Fumagalli is the NFL after a standout career at Wisconsin, where he was named a second-team All-American and the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year in 2017. A Waubonsie Valley graduate, Fumagalli is one of the best players from the Chicago area in the draft.

Fumagalli said he’s not tired of discussing his amputated finger. His former coaches rave about his natural pass-catching talents as much as his character. But his finger has become a story because NFL teams go over everything for the draft.

“The worst is when I get compared to [Central Florida linebacker] Shaquem Griffin,” Fumagalli said.

Griffin’s left hand was removed when he was 4 because of the same condition Fumagalli had. Fumagalli and Griffin took part in the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine together.

“He’s out there playing without a hand,” Fumagalli said. “He’s a real-life inspiration. I’m not.”

But Fumagalli’s rise is noteworthy nonetheless. His amputated finger should just be a footnote. He accepted a partial scholarship from the Badgers instead of heading to one of the many mid-major schools that pursued him.

Fumagalli developed into one of the best players from a Badgers class that succeeded despite going from coach Bret Bielema to Gary Andersen to Paul Chryst.

“He was determined,” Waubonsie Valley coach Paul Murphy said. “He said, ‘Coach Murphy, I’ll be [the] No. 1 [tight end] before it’s all said and done.’ That’s how much self-confidence he had.”

Fumagalli was the Badgers’ top receiver the last two seasons with a team-best 93 catches for 1,127 yards and six touchdowns.

He was named the most valuable offensive player of the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, 2017, with six receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown in a 24-16 victory against Western Michigan. His performance included an outstretched one-handed catch with his left hand.

“A lot of teams didn’t put a linebacker on him,” Wisconsin tight ends coach Mickey Turner said. “They’d designate a safety to him in man-to-man coverage.”

It was a sign of respect. But Fumagalli’s blocking arguably was more critical for the run-oriented Badgers. He might be considered a Day 3 selection, but his blocking is where he distinguishes himself among tight ends.

Fumagalli’s favorite college play was blocking for running back Corey Clement’s two-yard touchdown run in the Cotton Bowl. A photographer captured the gaping hole that he and his teammates created.

“There literally was a five-yard gap,” he said.

Turner also highlighted blocks from this season against Purdue and Penn State in which he “de-cleated” opponents.

“He timed it up right, was low in his pads, ran his feet and just leveled the guy,” Turner said.

Fumagalli’s amputated finger shouldn’t overshadow that.

“He gets plenty of press on that,” Turner said with a laugh.

Fumagalli knows he’ll get asked about it again. He’ll be part of a new team soon.

“I don’t mind,” he said. “It was a part of me, and it never affected me doing anything.”

LOCALS LIST

A look at the notable Chicago-area high school players most likely to be drafted:

C Brian Allen, Michigan State

High school: Hinsdale Central.

Projection: Round 7, priority free agent.

Low down: A second-team Big Ten pick for three consecutive years, Allen followed his older brother, Jack, to Michigan State and now to the NFL.

TE Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin

High school: Waubonsie Valley.

Projection: Rounds 4-5.

Low down: A strong, willing blocker and capable receiver, Fumagalli was named the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year.

RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern

High school: Glenbard North.

Projection: Rounds 6-7.

Low down: Jackson is Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher with 5,440 yards over four seasons.

OT Jamarco Jones, Ohio State

High school: De La Salle.

Projection: Rounds 3-4.

Low down: Jones was a first-team Big Ten selection in 2017, according to conference coaches and the media.

CB Michael Joseph, Dubuque

High school: Oswego.

Projection: Round 7, priority free agent.

Low down: A decorated star at the Division-III level, Joseph’s size (6-1, 187 pounds) and athleticism have the NFL’s attention.

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