It was so hard not to doubt.
A few days after I underwent surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament of my left knee, I looked at the injury, and it was swollen to the size of a volleyball. The pain was so excruciating that I could barely move and there was blood all over it because the doctors couldn’t clean my knee without hurting it.
Imagine that. You’ve got blood all over your knee and you can’t do anything about it.
Then on top of that, your whole quad is deteriorated from the tearing of the muscles the doctors do. The surgery left my entire left leg dead and I literally couldn’t do a thing.
For instance, after I got done at the hospital, I went home to my apartment and I couldn’t walk down three flights of stairs to get to where my car was. That’s such a simple thing to do, yet I always took it for granted.
I felt completely helpless, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t start to doubt my knee at that point. I mean, how could I not doubt my situation?
I truly didn’t know what was going to happen to me, and I never knew if I would make it back. There was a chance that I had played my last game at Texas, and the thought was killing me.
I had put a lot of time and effort into this program, and now there was a chance that was being taken away.
It was around that point that all of those fears started to set in.
I had them a little bit when I was taken off of the field at the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas, but at that point, questions were mostly just floating through my mind.
I wasn’t thinking about the injury or rehab because the pain didn’t bother me as much as the immediate worries.
I just kept asking myself, how the situation was going to pan out because it was imminent that I wasn’t going to be there for spring training, and along with that, I didn’t know what I would be like when I got back.
I mean, I left the field a starter and now there was no question that I was going to have to compete for the job with Chris Simms, who’s a very talented quarterback.
You know, Chris and I get along fine, contrary to what others think, but as a competitive person, I didn’t want to lose what I had as a starter.
Football has been such a huge part of my life, and after experiencing the things I have in my career, I didn’t want more precious moments to slip away. I want to lead the team back to the Big 12 Championship game, and I want to try to help this team win a national title.
I had planned on having that opportunity, but now I was scared that I lost it.
Fortunately, I got rid of the worries, I made it through the ordeal by surrounding myself with the right people.
The training staff kept giving me motivation by telling me I was ahead of the schedule and there were a lot of prayers with my family, girlfriend and friends.
A lot of people believed that I could make it back, and by the end of February I was feeling what they believed.
The last week of spring I was able to drop back and throw the ball. When I did that. I just thought, “Man, it’s still February and I can do this. I’ll be back.”
You know, I have won some big games, but I can’t remember being more thrilled than that in my career.
I knew I would be ready to go. I knew I would be ready to compete for the job.
And that’s all I wanted. I wanted to have the opportunity to compete with Chris.
Of course, some people might think I am bitter about the whole situation and having to earn the job back, but I’m not.
There’s so many circumstances in football that you can’t really put a tab on whether one situation is fair or not. There are certain things that are fair about it, and I admit there are some things that seem unfair about it. That’s just how it is.
Along with that, there’s been situations that have been tough. There’s times when you lie in bed at night and you think about it. I’m human, I don’t just get in front of a camera with a straight-forward glare and pretend nothing is going on. I’m not an android, and when you’re as competitive as Chris and I are, your mind wanders. What if the coaches are doing this, or what if they are trying to do that?
You even look at the positives of what they are doing, but that’s something you kind of have to keep away from. You don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill.
So you can’t worry about all that, and you just have to keep in mind that you can’t turn this into something larger. We’re not going to let a controversy brew.
This has got to be a football team, and I don’t think either of us is going to put our personal aspirations ahead of the team.
Neither one of us is bigger than this University.
I mean the worst thing I could have done is come out, pouted and not try to compete. There was no way I wasn’t going to do that because that’s not how my mom and dad raised me.
I have the opportunity to play, and I am going to fight for it.
I’ve come out here and given it my all, and now I just have to trust the coaches from this point on because it’s their job and they are going to put the best guy out on the field.
So I’m not worried about the decision. I’ve done everything I can do, I made it through two-a-days and I worked hard during rehab to have a chance to win the job back. I realize that I can only go out and do what I’ve been doing. If that’s not enough, then hey, I gave it my all.
I’m not going to dislike Chris if he gets the job, and I am sure he would feel the same way if I got it.
The situation we are in could have easily been a strain on our relationship, but it hasn’t been that way.
We’ve dealt with all the questions, and, of course, there’s been those polls going around about if it should be me or him.
But we don’t pay much attention to the polls because they are so misrepresented and people aren’t always right. I mean Bill Clinton was elected President, and look at what a Bozo he turned out to be.
I don’t pay much attention to polls or majority votes after that one, and neither does Chris.
We have the same goals for the team, so we have to realize that we are on the same page in that regard.
But I do want to be out there, just like Chris does. It’s human to want to play, and we wouldn’t be playing if we didn’t want to.
I would love to have the opportunity because I would have made it back from such a tough injury, and that certainly would say something about my character if I did go out there an show them my knee is fine.
I want to play more than I have ever wanted to before.
You only realize what you have until you lose it, and you don’t really realize what you’ve lost until it’s gone.
I would love this thing to have a happy ending.
When I first came here, I had no aspirations. It was sort of like if it happens great, if not, no big deal.
But my goal now is to win a national championship at the University of Texas, and I’m not going to worry about the NFL unless it occurs.
There are no individual goals.
I don’t care about the Davey O’Brien Award, the Heisman or any of that stuff.
I just want to win national championships.
I mean we had a chance to put the word “champions” next to or name last year at the Big 12 Championship game in San Antonio and we let it get away from us.
That may not mean a lot to a lot of other people but to me, being able to put champion next to your name means a lot.
And I think I’ve gone through enough doubts and questions to earn it.
As told to Damien Pierce, Daily Texan Staff
Printed on Thursday, August 31, 2000