Mountaineers quarterback faces, deals with choices
November 27, 2013 11:20 PM
Pam Panchak / Post-Gazette
West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett looks to pass in a game earlier this season.
By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's not quite head, shoulders, knees and toes, but West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett's aches and pains have him more eager than anyone for the offseason to arrive.
Trickett has started six games for the Mountaineers this fall, including both Big 12 wins, but has had an abundance setbacks -- back-to-back concussions, a shoulder injury and resulting weight loss -- that have limited his availability and effectiveness.
Trickett missed West Virginia's last game, a 31-19 loss against Kansas, after being knocked out in the first half of an overtime loss against Texas a week earlier.
It was his second concussion in three weeks. Trickett admitted Tuesday he never told anyone about the first, which came from a sack by Kansas State's Chaquil Reed Oct. 26.
"I played through it," Trickett said. "Obviously, I would have tried to play through the Texas one, too, if I wasn't completely unconscious."
Trickett laughed, though it was swallowed by an uncomfortable silence.
In an age of heightened awareness about head injuries in football, Trickett understands the dangers, he's just been conditioned to ignore them.
It's an internal conflict football players have begun to face, and Trickett, like many, contends that if he isn't pulled from the game by coaches or trainers, he is not coming out.
"I'm never really going to pull myself out of a game," he said. "It's not in my DNA; it's not how I was raised. You've got to fight through things."
When asked whether, in hindsight, he defends or regrets his decision to hide the concussion, Trickett sat silently for a few seconds before responding. He answered slowly, as if trying to convince himself of the right answer, trying to balance the internal conflict between his heart and his head.
"I was still able to function," he said. "If I wasn't about to function and was hurting the team then I would probably would [regret it]."
Three plays after his first concussion against Kansas State, Trickett scored on a 6-yard touchdown run. The Mountaineers would manage only two field goals the rest of the way in a 35-12 loss.
Trickett fumbled twice and was pulled in the fourth quarter.
"I definitely wasn't myself," he admitted.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said he is not concerned that something like a back-and-forth quarterback competition throughout the season might lead a player to ignore his wellbeing and hide a minor concussion just to maintain starter status.
"Hopefully, you're a smart enough player where, if it's going to hurt the team, you tell people," Dawson said. "Being a competitor, you try to stay in as much as possible -- that's understandable.
"But at some point, it's Big Ol' Team and Little Bitty Ol' Me. You've got to understand that, if it's detrimental to the team for you to be out there, that's not fair to the other 10 guys out there."
Trickett said his parents and doctors weren't pleased to discover he'd hidden a head injury.
"I do have to realize there is life after football, even though my life after football will still probably be football -- coaching," he said. "It's my decision, and I've got to make a smart decision for my health later on down the road."
A second concern for Trickett is his right shoulder, injured in his first start, a heroic effort that resulted in a 30-21 upset against current-No. 7 Oklahoma State Sept. 28.
Trickett hasn't been able to do any upper-body lifting in the past two months, he said, and doctors haven't ruled out the possibility of an offseason procedure to repair the shoulder.
A third ailment is celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder which does not allow the body to process foods containing gluten. Trickett was diagnosed with celiac two years ago and has adapted fully to the gluten-free lifestyle. And so have his teammates.
When Trickett took his offensive linemen out to dinner this season, they settled a Japanese steak house in Morgantown with plenty of gluten-free options.
"We just try to avoid Italian places," Trickett said with a grin. "Pasta -- can't have that."
Already a wiry 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Trickett said he'll need to make up weight in the offseason that he's lost due to the lack of lifting, celiac and the normal wear and tear of a season.
"Celiac just makes it twice as hard," Trickett said. "But it's the hand I was dealt, and I've got to deal with it."
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
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