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Seahawks / NFL

Monday, June 5, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Despite bad breaks, Hamdan determined to succeed

Seattle Times staff columnist

Already in the red zone on the game's first drive, Amsterdam quarterback Gibran Hamdan slid to his left, trying to shake loose from the clutches of Hamburg's massive defensive tackle.

Tai Tupai was lying on top of Hamdan's right ankle and, as he yanked the quarterback to the ground, Hamdan's left ankle was stuck under Tupai's 340-pound body.

"I heard my right foot pop and crackle," Hamdan said. "I was kind of in disbelief."

Hamdan stayed in the game for one more play, then limped to the sideline and told the Amsterdam trainer, "I think I broke both of my ankles."

What followed tells you all you need to know about Gibran Hamdan and how much he cares about playing football and how much it means to him to get a chance, any chance, to play.

The Admirals' medical staff tugged and twisted at his ankles, taped both of them tighter and sent him back into the game. He threw for 322 yards that day and was named player of the week in NFL Europe.

The next day, April 30, X-rays revealed a break in his right ankle, and for the second year in a row, his NFL Europe season was cut short.

"It's easy to say, but it is part of the game," said Hamdan, who was allocated to NFL Europe by the Seahawks. "It was a tough break, especially because I've been knocking on the door for so long."

Adversity follows Hamdan like a secret agent. He was tearing apart NFL Europe before tearing up his ankle. The year before, he broke his collarbone while playing for Amsterdam.

"This isn't my first bout with adversity," he said. "I feel like I've become adept at handling it. You know, it's not like I can go back to the game in Hamburg and run away from Tupai. I am what I am: a guy who got hurt in Europe, is rehabilitating now and trying to win a spot with the Seahawks when I get back."

Teams can learn a lot about a player by the way he handles the bad breaks, the heartbreaks and the broken bones. With Hamdan, there is resolve where you think you'd find self-pity. There is hope, even as he hobbles on crutches to his rehab appointments.

Hamdan, who spent his early childhood in Kuwait, doesn't wallow in adversity. He learns from it. Again and again and again.

On Aug. 2, 1990, while vacationing with his family in San Diego, away from the swelter of the summer in the Middle East, the Hamdans learned Kuwait had been invaded by Iraq.

"I remember watching TV and seeing the tanks and everything," Hamdan said, "but the thing that's ingrained in me is how my parents [Latif and Laila] reacted after that happened."

Hamdan was 9 years old. For the past six years, his family had been living the good life in Kuwait. His father was a nuclear engineer working at a scientific institute. They lived in a five-bedroom, three-bath villa.

Then Saddam Hussein took it all.

"My father gathered us together and told us we couldn't go home," Hamdan said. "Saddam had taken all of our money, our house, our car. We went from being a well-off family to nothing. Everything was gone in the blink of an eye. And all for nothing wrong that my father had done. I'm sure my father felt devastated, but the way he explained it to us was, 'OK, what's next?' My dad just dealt with it."

While his father looked for work, his mother took a job for six months as a hairdresser at Fantastic Sam's. Eventually, his father was hired by the United States government and the family moved to Potomac, Va.

"My father's a strong man," Hamdan said. "He never made me or my brother feel like we wanted for anything. It was very impressive."

His parents' courage is transcendent.

A little more than three weeks since Hamdan had surgery to repair his ankle, he is upbeat and preparing for training camp. His ankle is healing properly, and he said he expects to be ready in Cheney when camp opens next month.

A seventh-round pick of the Washington Redskins in 2003, this will be Hamdan's fourth training camp. But he hasn't played a down in his last nine exhibition games.

"My whole career's been on a certain timetable," Hamdan, 25, said. "I just keep hanging around and hanging around. This is my career right now. I'm developing my craft. In my mind, I'm like an entrepreneur, and I have to sell myself.

"If coach [Mike] Holmgren would give me one drive in a preseason game, that one drive would be the world for me. He'd get the three best plays I've got. I'd look at it as an opportunity. That's the next step for me. Get into a preseason game and get on some film for someone to watch."

Even though he missed the final three regular-season games, Hamdan was named NFL Europe's offensive MVP. He set a league record for passer rating at 113.4.

"The biggest thing for me is that I'm getting better," he said. "I'm developing into a player. I feel more solid. I know I can play in the NFL and I can start in the NFL — not next year, but sometime."

Behind each of Hamdan's misfortunes an opportunity has lurked. He has suffered a career's worth of bad breaks. But he won't be broken.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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