Tech’s Choice fights through in­juries for yet an­other 1,000-yard sea­son

Run­ning back turns in stel­lar sea­son de­spite his in­juries

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Charles Odum

AT­LANTA — Tashard Choice has plenty of time to think about what might have been this sea­son.

“It goes through my mind ev­ery day,” Choice said Tues­day.

Each day be­gins at 7 a.m. with the first of at least three vis­its to the Ge­or­gia Tech train­ing room. Each ses­sion lasts 30 min­utes to an hour as the med­i­cal staff uses ul­tra­sound, ic­ing, stretch­ing, mas­sage ther­apy and other treat­ment strate­gies on Choice’s trou­ble­some right ham­string.

It’s been a long and frus­trat­ing sea­son. Choice has felt com­pletely healthy for only two games — re­ally only one game and the first quar­ter of an­other. He rushed for 196 yards and two touch­downs in the sea­son-open­ing win over Notre Dame, then went over 100 yards while play­ing in just the first quar­ter of a lop­sided win over Sam­ford.

Choice suf­fered the strained ham­string in the third quar­ter of Ge­or­gia Tech’s third game against Bos­ton Col­lege. He had only five car­ries the fol­low­ing week against Vir­ginia.

A big­ger scare came against Army on Oct. 20 when he hurt his right knee. He needed arthro­scopic surgery to re­pair the car­ti­lage in the knee, forc­ing him to miss the Nov. 1 game against Vir­ginia Tech.

Through it all, Choice last week be­came the first player in Ge­or­gia Tech his­tory to rush for 1,000 yards in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons, and he is close to lead­ing the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence in rush­ing for the sec­ond straight year.

The im­pres­sive num­bers only make it more tempt­ing for Choice to won­der how much bet­ter he and the Yel­low Jack­ets (6-4) might have been if he had en­joyed a healthy sea­son.

Even in last Satur­day’s win at Duke, his first game back af­ter the knee surgery, Choice felt tight­ness in the ham­string. He had to run out of bounds at the end of a 48-yard run in the first quar­ter. He rushed for 170 yards, but didn’t feel he was full speed.

“It’s hard to say, but I don’t feel the same as the first two games of the sea­son when I was healthy,” Choice said. “I felt I could play and do a lot more things. When your ham- string both­ers you a lit­tle there are cer­tain things you do. I’m try­ing to get it back in that shape where I had that mind frame where I could do more on the field.”

Choice’s team­mates re­al­ize the se­nior has played through in­juries.

“Tashard is one of those guys, he’ll kill him­self or cut off his leg just to be out on the field,” said se­nior safety Djay Jones. “At the same time, it’s bet­ter for him that he rests his body so that he can re­cover and be 100 per­cent.”

Ge­or­gia Tech coach Chan Gai­ley said he would limit Choice in prac­tice Tues­day and Wed­nes­day as the Yel­low Jack­ets pre­pare for Satur­day’s home game against North Carolina.

“I just have to try to stay off it as much as I can and make sure I stay in treat­ment each day be­fore and af­ter prac­tice,” Choice said.

“I have to try to do ev­ery­thing to get it back healthy so that when I get in open field I can run as fast as I can. That’s the only prob­lem I have.”

When Choice pulled up on the long run against Duke, Gai­ley and Ge­or­gia Tech fans had to fear the se­nior had ei­ther hurt the knee or suf­fered a more se­ri­ous ham­string in­jury.

Choice has had to pull up on other long runs due to the ham- string prob­lem, but he al­ways re­turns to the game.

The ques­tion for Gai­ley: Is it dif­fi­cult to know how to pro­ceed with Choice?

“Yes, but it’s not nearly as dif­fi­cult as him be­ing out com­pletely,” Gai­ley said. “That would be a lot more dif­fi­cult to fig­ure out, how to han­dle things. It’s a nice prob­lem to have, to have a young man who wants to and who is go­ing to fight through some pain to get in there and play. That’s a great prob­lem to have.”

Be­fore the sea­son, Choice said his goal was to rush for 1,800 yards. The Tech record is 1,562 yards by Ed­die Lee Ivery in 1978. Choice has 1,057 yards with nine touch­downs af­ter rush­ing for 1,473 yards in 14 games last sea­son.

Choice av­er­aged 105 yards rush­ing per game last year. De­spite the in­juries, his ACClead­ing 2007 av­er­age is 114.9 — in­clud­ing 31 yards against Bos­ton Col­lege, 19 yards against Vir­ginia and 24 against Army. He has rushed for more than 140 yards in six games, in­clud­ing a ca­reer-high 204 against Mi­ami on Oct. 13.

There has been pain, but Choice hasn’t stopped smil­ing.

“I have to laugh, man,” he said. “To have in­juries and be side­lined for about three games, that re­ally got me re­ally up­set. But I’ll be OK.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.