Chryst said that Connelly, a former walk-on turned starter and all-conference performer, had been playing through an unspecified injury over the last four games.
“I’m telling you, he’s been unbelievable,” Chryst said.
Chryst said that Connelly wanted to finish out the season.
“Part of you says did you leave it all out there, and every game he played he can answer with great confidence that he did, so you appreciate that a ton,” Chryst said. “Quite honestly, I’m excited that he’s now getting healthy. It’s a step that he can get healthy, because I think he does have a future.”
Paul Chryst says #Badgers senior ILB Ryan Connelly won’t be able to play in the bowl game. Needed a procedure to fix a nagging injury from the season. PC said it’s short term – shouldn’t affect his ability to train for the NFL.
— John Veldhuis (@JohnVeldhuis) December 14, 2018
Connelly emerged and became one of the most successful walk-on stories in recent memory. In the 2016 season opening win over No. 5 LSU, he replaced an injured Chris Orr on the second defensive play of the game, and later in that upset win at Lambeau Field, made a key open field tackle on current NFL running back Leonhard Fournette.
In 52 career games as a Badger, he tallied 259 tackles, 29 for loss, along with six sacks.
In 2017, he led the team in tackles (88) with 11 tackles for loss.
This season, he played in all 12 regular season games, recording 89 tackles with 10 for loss. Both of those marks were second on the team behind Edwards. He claimed an honor as a Butkus Award semifinalist while also earning third-team all-Big Ten honors by the coaches.
It is likely that Orr will replace Connelly as the other starter at inside linebacker alongside 2017 All-American and 2018 first-team All-Big Ten honoree T.J. Edwards against Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl (4:15 p.m. CT, ESPN).