April 18, 2005
Arizona State senior Chad Christensen isn’t the biggest Grateful Dead fan around, but when ex-NBA star Bill Walton quoted one of the legendary band’s albums in his recent book, the line couldn’t have fit anyone else any better.
"What a long . . . strange . . . trip it’s been.’’
Now in his fifth and final season as a Sun Devil, Christensen’s positions on the football field and the depth chart continue to be in constant flux. But the former Desert Mountain High School star’s ultimate goal — to get on the field and help his team win — remains rock solid.
After playing eight games at quarterback in 2002 — starting four times — Christensen ran smack into the Andrew Walter era. But instead of transferring elsewhere or grousing about his position, he decided to earn his four letters doing whatever it takes to keep a clipboard out of his hands.
He has been the holder for field goals and extra points for three years. When the Devils ran out of running backs during an unprecedented set of injuries last year, he moved behind Walter and took a few carries. And now, with a few receivers among the wounded in spring practice, Christensen has changed spots again — to H-back and backup wide receiver — and will be catching passes from new quarterback Sam Keller this fall.
"In the back of my mind, I still have that quarterback in me,’’ he said with a smile. "I still go to all the quarterback meetings, I understand what we’re implementing, and hey, if there’s an emergency . . .’’
But for now, his job is to break into ASU’s deep and talented rotation of receivers. And he did all he could Saturday during the final spring scrimmage at Sun Devil Stadium — he caught three passes, led all receivers with 91 yards and contributed the day’s most electric play.
Working against ASU’s top cover linebacker, Jamar Williams, Christensen used all of his 6-foot-3 frame to leap and make a one-handed snare — the hand he tapes for his holder duties — for a 42-yard play. He added a 43-yard catch later in the day, getting within two yards of the end zone when he was caught from behind.
"I got some ribbing for not getting in the zone, but I’m still in the quarterback’s running program,’’ he said. "But I’ll get in early (Sunday) to see (the one-hander) on film a few times.’’
ASU coach Dirk Koetter knows Christensen is a quarterback in his heart and head, but he appreciates his senior’s commitment to team success.
"Chad’s going to help our football team in a lot of ways," he said.
His most important role might be as a team leader. And for a team depleted by injuries and rocked by the death of former player Brandon Falkner — allegedly at the hands of former player Loren Wade — this last month hasn’t been an easy one.
"Whenever you’re faced with adversity, you can either crumble or come together," Christensen said. "A lot of those practices were tough. It was getting hot outside, we had people thinking they wanted to be other places. The stuff we were dealing with was a lot bigger than whether you have to worry about a weak-side blitz.
"But we were able to come together and get the work done. That’s definitely going to pay off in the fall."
And if he’s throwing the ball, holding it or catching it, Christensen will make the most of his last year as a Sun Devil.
"You come in, and you’re the starting quarterback as a freshman and then you get bumped out by the guy who breaks John Elway’s passing records,’’ he said. "It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Not finding a way to help the team any way I can, that would have been bad.’’