WR Sum­mers ‘shoot­ing for the stars’

With foot­ball ‘part of his DNA,’ trans­fer puts up gaudy num­bers for Tigers

Baltimore Sun - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Mike Klinga­man mike.klinga­man@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/MikeKlinga­man

Chris­tian Sum­mers grew up in the shadow of Vil­lanova, played foot­ball in its back­yard and has an un­cle who starred there. But when re­cruit­ing time came, the Wild­cats did not.

“They weren’t in­ter­ested in me,” Sum­mers said.

They are now. To­day, Vil­lanova will try to stop Tow­son’s mer­cu­rial wide re­ceiver, whose two long touch­down re­cep­tions in the sec­ond half in a 35-28 win over Saint Fran­cis (Pa.) earned him Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion Of­fen­sive Player of the Week hon­ors. His 94-yard score — the sec­ond­longest play in Tigers his­tory — tied the game at 28, and Sum­mers’ air­borne catch of a 43-yard pass won it for Tow­son (1-1). Word of his per­for­mance spread fast. “When I came off the field, I had 40 text mes­sages say­ing ‘con­grat­u­la­tions’ from all of my boys,” Sum­mers said. All told, he had six re­cep­tions for 232 yards, num­bers not lost on the Wild­cats (1-1), who host the Tigers at 3:30 p.m. to­day. With nine re­cep­tions in two games, the 6-foot-3 se­nior is av­er­ag­ing 33 yards a catch — a fig­ure sure to paint a tar­get on his back.

“Teams are go­ing to no­tice me a lit­tle more, and that’s a good thing,” Sum­mers said. “If they put both a cor­ner [back] and safety on me, it could open up our run­ning game.”

Sum­mers’ suc­cess was not un­ex­pected, coach Rob Am­brose said.

“Chris­tian is an in­cred­i­bly hard worker who doesn’t just like foot­ball, he loves it. It’s part of his DNA,” Am­brose said. “The sky is the limit for him.”

His break­out game was well-timed for the Drexel Hill, Pa., na­tive, who’ll play be­fore fam­ily and friends to­day. That in­cludes his un­cle, Dan Sum­mers, a bruis­ing line­backer for Vil­lanova 25 years ago.

“We haven’t done much trash-talk­ing,” Sum­mers said. “My un­cle has been very sup­port­ive of me here — but we’ll see what [school’s] col­ors he’s wear­ing at the game.”

Sum­mers didn’t play against the Wild­cats last year, his first with Tow­son. A trans­fer from Val­ley Forge Mil­i­tary Col­lege, he caught 26 passes as a ju­nior but lacked the savvy and speed he has now.

“I was just a big [220-pound] dude who tried to over­power every­body,” he said. “Since I’ve slimmed down, my routes are smoother and I feel bet­ter on my feet.”

He showed it on that 94-yard romp, out­run­ning ev­ery­one but a Red Flash safety who caught Sum­mers at the 1-yard line. Of­fi­cials gave him the score. Good call or no?

“Umm … maybe,” he said. “I’m just glad we got the touch­down.”

The game-win­ner was a div­ing grab of El­lis Knud­son’s pass as Sum­mers left his feet, stretched out in the end zone and speared the ball with his size-10 hands.

“El­lis just be­lieved in me and chucked it up,” he said. “I thought I had no chance be­cause the ball was so far ahead of me, but I just laid out and caught it in the right cor­ner. That was huge; I was shocked.”

In truth, he’s still learn­ing the game, hav­ing aban­doned foot­ball for nearly three years in high school. As a sopho­more, Sum­mers suf­fered a con­cus­sion in prac­tice and quit the team.

“I went out for a pass, got hit — and then my head hit the ground,” he said. “I had headaches for a month; it was scary. The doc­tor said to give up foot­ball.”

It was a heart-wrench­ing de­ci­sion. As a child, Sum­mers said, he “breathed foot­ball. Know how kids love play­ing video games? I was never that kid. I was al­ways out­side with a foot­ball in my hands.”

As a se­nior at Mon­signor Bon­ner, he re­turned to the team in mid­sea­son and caught four touch­down passes in a game against Arch­bishop Wood, the even­tual Penn­syl­va­nia 3A cham­pion.

“He didn’t know the play­book, but he leaped over two guys and caught the ball,” Mon­signor Bon­ner coach Greg Bern­hardt When: To­day, 3:30 p.m. Site: Vil­lanova (Pa.) Sta­dium TV: Com­cast Sport­sNet Au­dio: 104.9 FM, Tow­sonTigers.com Se­ries: Vil­lanova leads 7-5 What’s at stake: Both teams are com­ing off heady wins en­ter­ing their Colo­nial Ath­letic Con­fer­ence sea­son. Vil­lanova edged Le­high, 26-21, while rush­ing for 396 yards. Tow­son ral­lied for a 35-28 vic­tory while hold­ing Saint Fran­cis (Pa.) score­less in the sec­ond half. Last year, the Tigers de­fense proved the dif­fer­ence against the Wild­cats as Tow­son re­turned two in­ter­cep­tions for touch­downs in a 28-21 win. For the record, Tow­son has won ev­ery matchup in odd-num­bered years and Vil­lanova has won in even years. Key matchup: Vil­lanova tail­back Javon White vs. Tow­son’s de­fense. White rushed for a ca­reer-high 155 yards last week and leads the run-happy Wild­cats, who of­fer the Tigers’ front four their stiffest ground test thus far. Player to watch: With Tow­son quar­ter­back Mor­gan Ma­ha­lak out (shoul­der in­jury), red­shirt sopho­more El­lis Knud­son gets his first ca­reer start. He re­placed Ma­ha­lak early in last week’s game, passed for 301 yards and two touch­downs, and ran for one score. How Knud­son fares when he’s ex­pected to play is the ques­tion. — Mike Klinga­man

“Teams are go­ing to no­tice me a lit­tle more, and that’s a good thing. If they put both a cor­ner [back] and safety on me, it could open up our run­ning game.” Chris­tian Sum­mers, on the ef­fects of his re­cent suc­cess

said. “Ath­let­i­cally, Chris­tian was a freak on the field.”

At Val­ley Forge, Sum­mers honed his game and struc­tured his life.

“That place gave me fo­cus and or­der,” he said. “I grew up there. Time man­age­ment was huge, from march­ing to break­fast, to manda­tory study halls at night. It put a lot of char­ac­ter in me.”

At least 10 Val­ley Forge alumni have reached the NFL, in­clud­ing Larry Fitzger­ald, a nine-time Pro Bowl wide re­ceiver for the Ari­zona Car­di­nals, whom Sum­mers would like to fol­low.

Fitzger­ald “is def­i­nitely an idol in my life, hands-down,” he said.

“It would be an honor to be any­where near that good — but I’m shoot­ing for the stars.”

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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