Bit player still loyal to ASU - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Bit player still loyal to ASU

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Posted: Monday, November 21, 2005 5:26 am | Updated: 10:08 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Chad Christensen needs just a moment to pick out the two highlights of his Arizona State football career.

There was the 2002 game against Nebraska when he made his debut as the Sun Devils’ starting quarterback — and went 6-of-16 for 77 yards in a 48-10 defeat.

Second on the list: A practice at Camp Tontozona that year when tailback Cornell Canidate reversed field and Christensen pancaked unsuspecting defensive end Terrell Suggs, now an All-Pro linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens.

"When someone says in a few years, ‘Did you play with Terrell Suggs?’ " I’ll say, ‘Yeah, he knows not to come around my corner.’ "

A 38-point loss and an August morning. Christensen expected more upon his arrival at ASU in 2001. An all-state quarterback at Desert Mountain High School, he thought he’d be the next Danny White or Jake Plummer.

Instead, he’s become a bit player, relegated to special teams duty and the occasional trick play — as in last week’s loss to UCLA, when quarterback Rudy Carpenter lined up wide and Christensen took the snap and scored on an 8-yard draw play.

Yet, as Christensen prepares to play his final game at Sun Devil Stadium Friday, there is not bitterness in his voice but contentment.

He may not have made the most out of football, but because the sport didn’t define him, he wasn’t cheated by the college experience.

Christensen graduated last December with a degree in finance and will earn a second degree this spring in marketing.

"I was able to enjoy the school, enjoy my teammates and have a lot of fun," said Christensen, one of 14 ASU students in the (Pat) Tillman Leadership

Through Action Program. "When I leave I’m not going to have any regrets. I’m going to be able to look back and say I enjoyed my five years at Arizona State."

That’s because there’s no place he’d rather be.

Christensen is, in the vernacular of college athletics, a true Sun Devil. He started going to ASU games in 1996, the year Plummer led the Devils to the Rose Bowl and within seconds of a national championship.

Sitting in the stands, watching ASU upset Nebraska 19-0, well, let’s just say it was the best recruiting pitch a college could ever make.

"I was hooked," Christensen said. "This is where I wanted to come."

That loyalty — and Christensen’s understanding of his place in the world — kept him from transferring before the 2003 season.

He knew there was only a remote chance he’d ever play quarterback again for the Devils. Andrew Walter was entrenched as the starter, and hotshot recruit Sam Keller was next in line.

It was the low point of Christensen’s career and leaving crossed his mind, but only for a moment. He was a Sun Devil, for better or worse.

"Whether or not everything worked out, this is where I wanted to be," he said. "Just being in Sun Devil Stadium every Saturday was more fun for me than possibly playing somewhere else.

"To be a part of this tradition, from coach (Frank) Kush to Danny White to Jake Plummer to Andrew Walter, that’s something that’s very special to me."

ASU coach Dirk Koetter said Christensen "could have gone in the tank and transferred. . . . Among a lot of college football players, especially at quarterback, it’s really in vogue to drop down to Division I-AA. You have to admire him for (not) doing that. It says a lot about his loyalty."

Christensen’s teammates think so much of him he received votes for the Most Valuable Player award that will be announced at the team banquet.

"There’s no doubt that Chad is a great Sun Devil," Koetter said. . . . "We’re going to miss him."

Life will take Christensen away from ASU, but it will never take ASU away from him. In fact, in 20 years or so he hopes he’s back on campus — as athletic director.

"That’s definitely something percolating in my mind," he said. "Before that, though, I’d like to already have donated the Christensen indoor practice facility."

So Christensen didn’t get to be "The Man."

He’s still a Big Man on Campus.

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