Husky lineman's painful leg snap not end of story
Gregory Christine's return this season is the best story of a Washington training camp full of good news.
Seattle Times staff columnist
UW @ BYU, 4 p.m., CBS-CSN
In Washington's terminology, the running play to the left was No. 13.
"It was unlucky 13 for me," Gregory Christine said Wednesday, wearing his usual broad smile.
The Huskies' guard thought he had his man turned. Thought he'd done his job. And then the pile fell on his leg and snapped his fibula and the pain was felt by everyone in Husky Stadium who knew him and liked him and had rooted so hard for him to succeed.
Christine came to Washington as a walk-on. He worked himself into a starting position. He beat the odds. Then, one play on a late Saturday night last October against Arizona ended his season and, as he left the stadium that night, even his head coach thought Christine's career was over.
"To be honest, I didn't think he'd be back," Steve Sarkisian said. "When a guy is a walk-on, an overachiever in a sense, and he has that type of injury, you think, 'Man I feel for the kid, but I'm glad he got to play for us when he did.' "
Christine's rise from walk-on to starter was inspiring, but his return this season is the best story of a training camp full of good news.
When Washington begins its most promising season in almost a decade Saturday afternoon against BYU, Christine, now a senior, will be the starting right guard.
He has beaten back the pain, done all the dreary rehab, fought against the odds once again and reclaimed his position.
"Greg is a guy that's worked really hard ever since he got here," quarterback Jake Locker said. "For him to come back, I don't think anybody on the team would have doubted that he'd be back to play this year. I'm really happy for him. I'm proud of him and I love having him protecting me."
It hurt to watch Christine's injury. It hurt to see him writhing on the turf. It felt like the end.
"I'm not going to lie, I didn't know if it would work out," Christine says. "I felt the pain right away. It was a lot of pain.
"But we had a great training staff and the coaches believed in me. It was all about positive thoughts and positive mindsets and keeping everything very up tempo while you're down."
This is who Gregory Christine is. The Huskies won on a miracle finish that night against Arizona, but lost their next four and, after the second loss and after the surgery to repair his leg, Christine's only thought was getting back with his teammates.
"I needed to see what I could do to help," he said. "I needed to get back in the meetings. I mean losing is not what I'm about."
Ten days after his surgery, the cast came off and Christine was given a plan of action to rehabilitate the leg. He said that's when he knew he had a chance to return.
"I saw there was a process," he said. "And after that it was all about me staying mentally fresh. I'm a Saints fan and (tight end) Jeremy Shockey broke his leg and he came back and played well and I just said, 'If Jeremy Shockey can do it, then I might be able to do it.' "
He followed the medical staff's instructions as if they were road maps to the Promised Land. He used his teammates' encouragement as motivation.
On his first day back with the team after his surgery, players commandeered a golf cart but couldn't find the key to start it, so they put Christine in the driver's seat and pushed him down the hill and into practice.
"My teammates rallied behind me. I always had my team," Christine said.
Christine is the team's lyricist-in-residence. He raps under the street name, Bent Twig and, after breaking his leg, he wrote a song, "Can't Go On." It says a lot about who he is.
In the late afternoon sunshine Wednesday, in the north end zone of Husky Stadium, Christine recited the chorus.
"When you feel like you can't go on / And you feel like you're not as strong / Just put your hand out and I'll be there / Anytime. Anywhere."
"I was just kind of thinking about all of the people who had a hand helping pick me up when I fell down," Christine said. "I just started thinking that there are more people than just yourself.
"Once you step back and you notice how many people care about you, it makes it easier for you to be able to put whatever it is that's affecting you personally aside and look at how much joy you can bring to other people."
Greg Christine discovered he could go on. He could beat a broken leg and turn his pain into joy.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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