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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Somewhere back home, in Texas, Christina Adock has a photo of her son – California offensive lineman Chris Adcock -- at the age of five, in a set of surgical scrubs.
“He’s always wanted to be a doctor,” she says. “He always said he wanted to be a doctor.”
At the Bay Area College Football Media Day, Bears head coach Sonny Dykes proudly trumpeted that Adcock would be “a future doctor, some day,” a comment that drew a laugh from Adcock, who mused later on twitter, “Out of context, you might think I’m hopping into a time machine.”
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Quick with a quip and as well-spoken as is expected out of the center of an offensive line – the smartest guys on the gridiron, dontcha know – Adcock boasts a sparkling 3.6 GPA, just a sneeze away from graduating with honors.
“Leadership, experience, toughness, all those things a good offensive lineman has, he certainly has that,” says Dykes. “He’s the heart and soul of our program, and what’s good about college athletics.”
In the spring, while in the heart of his rehab for a severe knee injury – he tore his ACL, MCL and partially tore his PCL – he took 19 units. In the fall, he took 16.
Adcock has always had a single-minded focus on academics. His goal? To help people.
It started early. His father, Jeff, is a physician in the Garland-Dallas area.
“I just wanted to be able to have a set of skills that I can have and take other places and help people,” Adcock says.
That desire to help people impelled Adcock, as a senior at Dallas Christian, to tell his mother, in no uncertain terms, that he wanted to go on a mission trip to Ateiku, Ghana – barely half a dot on the map without a single paved road in the middle of the western half of the African nation of, at the time, just under 25 million people – to help build a high school, with some of his classmates.
The connection to Africa wasn’t new for the Adcock clan: Christina’s maternal grandmother was a missionary Kenya for many years, until she died of Malaria at the age of 82.
His younger brother, Garrett, now an offensive lineman at New Mexico, was headed to Paris, France, for a choir trip, with Christina set to go with him.
“Paris in the spring? No brainer!” Christina says.
But, Christina’s grandmother’s experience stuck with her. “I didn't want him to go,” she says, “and I certainly didn't want him to go alone.”
“I did not want to go there,” she continues. “I always thought that charity begins at home, and that people here have it hard. My grandmother was a missionary in Africa, and she got malaria from going to Kenya so much. She came back, and she was 82, and they thought she had the flu and ended up dying from malaria. I always said, ‘I’ll never go to Africa.’ Lo and behold, Christopher says, ‘I want to go to Africa,’ and I’m like, ‘No, you’re not going.’ He goes, ‘Mom, I’m going to go with or without you, I’m 18,’ basically. So, I said, ‘Well, I guess we’re going to Africa.’”
Before she knew it, the two were getting their visas and yellow fever shots for the mid-March trip. Instead of spending spring break getting some sun and tubing down a river, Adcock wanted to help people.
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Five weeks before the trip, Christina had major surgery, and she wasn’t anywhere close to 100%, especially considering the 25 hours of air travel that lay ahead.
Once the pair arrived, they took the four-hour drive in vans with no air conditioning from Accra – the capital of Ghana – to Ateiku.
Adcock and his classmates set themselves to manual labor, mixing cement in buckets with shovels and helping to frame out the new high school.
“She went with me, but she didn’t want to do all the physical labor for the construction, so she found out a lot of stuff about the village and the people there that we didn’t get a chance to, and one of the big deals was that they had a real need for healthcare,” Adcock says. “The closest clinic was hours away, if you could even get there, by car.”
While Adcock put his broad shoulders to work, trip host Lawrence Oduro took Christina on a tour of the outlying villages.
“What I did was, I went out with the village leader, and he took me to the outlying villages, and showed me,” Christina says. “The village where we are, in Ateiku, that’s kind of a very good, well-populated village. It has wells for drinking water and cooking and things like that, so what Lawrence did was take me to the outlying villages, where they had no running water, they had no electricity, and just showed me the people that were there.”
What Christina saw was immensely humbling.
“I just didn’t want to be there,” she says. “I kind of pulled it together when Lawrence came in – that’s the village leader. He was just in Dallas. He brought the chief here and visited and there was a film about it and everything. He took me out and showed me the village, and honestly, I was humbled, to my knees, crying, because of my bad attitude, that we need to stay in America and help Americans, because Americans, they don’t know abject poverty. They can go to soup kitchens and get meals.
“I saw all this poverty, and I said, ‘OK, Lawrence, what can we do to help?’ The first thing that we did was, we brought in electricity to that high school that Christopher was mixing concrete for.”
There was already some electricity in the village, for the church and other buildings, but not to the high school.
“It wasn’t an easy task, but it got the electricity there, and what we did with that, is, we actually put in a computer laboratory, so that they could have Internet,” says Christina. “We bought computers, and we put in 20 computer stations and did the wifi and everything, so that it really opened up their learning environment, so that they weren’t isolated in this building. They had electricity and they now had a computer lab with the computers and the Internet, which really helped, because they could have computers for the high school students, and two, they could have night classes, because they had electricity, to teach adults, as well.”
By the end of their trip, in March of 2010, the high school and its computer lab were built. But, there was still a lot to do.
“They had plans for the building, and they had a building that they had in mind, that was halfway done, where they would put the medical facility, if they could, so she got on board, came back and got it funded. She kind of coordinated it, stateside, and got it all shipped over there,” says Adcock.
“Something on my bucket list is to make a profound difference in the lives of other people,” says Christina. “So I asked Lawrence, I said, ‘This is great that we did the electricity, but I want to really do something that’s going to change lives here. What is it that you need?’ He pulled out blueprints to a hospital that he had no money to build. We decided to build the hospital, and they started construction, and it opened – we commissioned it – March 11 of 2011.”
Christina had a nest egg saved up for her difference-making, and the family donated “over $1 million” to build the facility, and Christina was able to get $5 million of medical equipment donated, along with nearly all of the shipping costs of the 11 C-containers full of supplies and equipment.
Since the initial trip, Christina has been back nine more times, and Adcock has been back once – in January of 2011 -- to help out with finishing the building for the hospital.
The hospital has changed life for the people in Ateiku. It’s now become an anchor of the region.
“From what I’ve heard from my family, going there, back and forth, it’s really developed because of the hospital and stuff like that,” says Adcock.
The local gold mine was able to build 200 houses because of the boost provided by the hospital.
Before he even has his Md., Chris Adcock has helped people half a world away to gain access to modern medicine, at the Christina Adcock and Sons Christian Hospital, which now serves 200,000 people in Western Ghana and sees roughly 10,000 patients per year.
Christina has since met with the Minister of Health, and got the hospital to be covered through the national health insurance.
“Now, people can go to our hospital, for free, and a big drive that we’re doing right now, is we can buy health insurance for $15 a person, for a year, if they don’t qualify for the national health insurance,” Christina says. “Now, it’s a nationally-accredited hospital, so it can receive health insurance for a lot of people, for free.”
Now, where there was once abject poverty and no healthcare to speak of, closer than a four-hour car ride, is a completely modern, two-story medical facility, with a market across the street and a bank next door, all because Chris Adcock told his mom, “I’m going, with or without you.”
“It’s been a great experience for the three of us, and Garrett – they both – have huge hearts for Ateiku,” Christina says. “It’s been a life-changing experience for all of us.”
While his experience in Ghana was a monumental one, Adcock has pressed on, back at home, double-majoring in business administration and interdisciplinary studies, with a focus on global health. In a way, his injury was a blessing in disguise.
“[Fall] semester was pretty tough,” he says. “I made the choice, not knowing at the beginning that I was going to get hurt, usually I’ll add more classes than I’m going to take, and then I whittle it down. By the time my injury happened, I hadn’t whittled it all the way down, and decided to keep them all. I got a bunch of my classes done last semester, so I’m actually taking a reduced course load this semester.”
During the spring, Adcock took MCAT prep courses on the weekends. Combine that with his 19 spring units, and, Adcock says, “last semester was, definitely, by far, the hardest semester that I’ve done.”
“It was pretty tough, and then, the rehab, in the spring, I was in the heart of my rehab,” he says. “It was a lot of hours, and a lot of time and commitment. I always try to see those hardships as challenges. It’d be easy to get beaten down by the hours, but it’s just an obstacle, and you try to overcome it.”
For a few weeks, he could just ramp over obstacles on his one-knee scooter, after which he bought a red Rascal. Top speed: 5 mph, downhill, with a tailwind. He still has the scooter, in fact, and was looking to sell it, but since his grandparents come to games, he decided to keep it, to make it easier for them to make the trip up the hill to Memorial Stadium.
“It got repurposed,” he laughs. “If I had to ride it any longer, I probably would have painted it, but I didn’t want to botch it up, since I was trying to resell it.”
After the motorized scooter came crutches. Out of the package, Adcock noticed, they were only rated for 300 pounds. The senior center tips the scales at a svelte 295, according to the media guide.
“I told our trainer, ‘You know, I think these will hold me, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I had a little something more heavy-duty.’ He made some phone calls and got them for me,” Adcock says. Of course, the new crutches came in red. They were soon repainted to a more Cal-friendly shade of blue.
While he was on the shelf, Adcock helped out as much as he could with the patchwork offensive line.
“Navigating the whole player-coach thing was difficult,” Adcock says. “It was interesting.”
One of his tasks was helping Jordan Rigsbee figure out the intricacies of the center position in offensive coordinator Tony Franklin’s system.
“He was always kind of our reserve guy. We made sure he had a basic understanding to be able to snap, but I don’t think anybody ever expected him to have to come in and start,” Adcock says. “I helped him out as much as I could, and he’s played enough when he had to switch over that he knew what he was getting into.”
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With Adcock back in the middle, Rigsbee will be worked out at right tackle, since left guard has been firmly taken over by sophomore Chris Borrayo.
“He’s been a pretty strong guy, a lot of character, since he came in, and he was pretty ready to go physically, when he got here,” Adcock says. “It was just little tweaks here and there. It was more just advice: ‘I saw you do this, maybe do that.’”
Adcock’s injury also gave him a window into the world he’s about to enter.
“The surgeons and the PTs loved working with me, because I liked ‘speaking their language,’ and was very interested in understanding my injuries and treatments,” Adcock says.
Adcock has shadowed most of the surgeons who work with Cal, and, while he hasn’t had the time to do as much community service as he’d like, outside of the trips to Ghana, his insatiable curiosity led him to really dig in to the medical ins-and-outs of his own injury.
While Adcock hasn’t been awake during his knee and thumb surgeries, he has gone back and, like any good football player, studied the tape.
“I’ve been able to go back and watch every type surgery that I’ve had with team docs,” he says. “Dr. [Robert] Eppley (an orthopedic surgeon who works with the team) always jokes around that I'm unique in that every operation I get to come watch I've usually had done myself.
“They do actually make videos during surgeries now so I got a kick out of watching my own surgeries back after the fact.”
Adcock wants to become a surgeon, but, he says, “Obviously, that is subject to change once I start my medical education.”
Why surgery? Once again, he has his Cal experience to thank.
“I want to be able to have the most impact when I get to go to places like Africa,” he says. “I’ve also seen how a great surgeon can help a patient get through some of the most difficult times of their lives – and careers – when they become injured.”
Could Adcock follow in the footsteps of former Cal centers Alex Mack, Brian De La Puente and Brian Schwenke, into the NFL? It’s possible, he says, but, for now, the most important letters in his future are Md.
“I’m definitely not counting that out,” Adcock says of the NFL. “If that opportunity comes up, then I’m going to pursue it. I’m preparing like, whenever our last game is, that’s my last game.”
Then, it's time to put those scrubs back on.
The Doctor is In
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