Thumb is Healing, Anxiety Persists

He may not have gotten the full clearance to grip the pigskin again, but seeing Sam Keller in practice playing around with a football is a common sight. It isn't a sign of carelessness, but rather the competitiveness that consumes the senior to-be signal caller. Consequently, that attribute will serve him well as he battles his backup Rudy Carpenter to reclaim his starter status.

Sam Keller underwent thumb surgery on Oct. 29th, and the results of the procedure as well as the prognosis are very encouraging. "Yeah, it was an absolute success," he said of the surgery. "The doctor said that my healing process is way ahead of schedule. That's encouraging, because it seems like such a long time since I even held a football. They said I can pick up and throw it around in a month (end of January). I'm definitely gonna be ready for spring practice."

Not only was this the first serious injury suffered by Keller, but he claims that this has been really his first-ever injury period. Thus, the mental rehab would probably be just as crucial as the physical one. "It was tough not playing and just watching, when you have been playing all your life," Keller commented. "You've been indestructible your entire career, and then something as small as your thumb gets injured…but it's your throwing hand and it screws you. It's kinda discouraging that something like that can end your season – I couldn't even grip the ball. But coming back from it will be fine – I can't wait."

The quarterback isn't skipping any practices these days, so he can "keep my head into it." He's does do the conditioning drills, and he doesn't miss any film sessions with the other quarterbacks. Keller is still in the proverbial here and now mode, and therefore isn't ready to reflect on his 2005 performance. "I'm just being supportive to the team and Rudy Carpenter," he said. He did however stop short of considering himself a mentor to the redshirt freshman who started in Keller's absence. "Occasionally when he needs it I help him," Keller remarked. "But he's doing fine and the coaches do fine with him. I can give him the on the filed perspective, because I'm seeing it behind the center. The coaches can only look at it from the sidelines."

It may be hard to describe the situation at his position as a quarterback controversy, but Carpenter's play during Keller's forced hiatus, does provide for an interesting story line in previewing next year's spring practice. When asked about his feelings on this topic, Keller offers an honest perspective. "I've done nothing on or off the filed to lose my job – I just got injured," he explained. "Rudy has done a great job, so obviously it would be unfair to tell him that he can't be the starter just because I was the starter before him. I know I have to earn my job back and that's exactly what I intend to do."

Keller said that not being able to practice hasn't given him more time for non-football activities, and if nothing else has helped him focus even more on his studies. His celebration moves in the 2004 Sun Bowl haven't been forgotten by the maroon and gold faithful, but the quarterback said that his lay-off wasn't utilized to update those innocent antics. "No, I haven't worked on any new moves yet, I'm gonna wait for the spring to get those going again (smile)…"

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