Life is good for Anastasio

Sitting out the beginning of fall camp with the third injury of his collegiate career, Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Anastasio had thoughts that maybe his shot to play significantly had come and gone. Though those thoughts are human nature, Anastasio was relieved to find out when he returned to the practice field last Sunday those insecurities were all for not.

Fully recovered from an injury to his right leg, head coach Charlie Weis had the senior running with the second unit right away. The 6-foot-2, 201-pounder has taken it from there, holding off stiff competition to be named the backup to Rhema McKnight on the Georgia Tech depth chart released Thursday. With all the multiple receiver sets the Irish run, Anastasio should see a steep increase in playing time.

"Coach just threw me in there to see what I can do," stated Anastasio, who has mainly been just a contributor on special teams. "I just came in and am working hard."

A foot injury kept Anastasio and his 4.4 speed out most of the spring, and the leg injury sidelined him the first two weeks of fall camp. The butterflies were going crazy in his stomach the night before Sunday's practice, as Anastasio anticipated his return between the lines.

"Almost as kind of nervous as I get before a game," Anastasio said. "Just after I got out there, it felt like old times. Running around with all the guys felt great."

Anastasio said he caught the first ball that came his way, and the Burke, Va., product hasn't looked back. So far he has beaten out junior Darrin Bragg who has yet to see game action, and true freshmen George West, Barry Gallup, Robby Parris and Richard Jackson.

"The fact that he got there healthy and showed an experience level," stated Weis. "Chase is very fast. That's why he has been very productive on special teams. He's been kind of waiting for his turn to play at wide receiver. As I told you the first day, he would be one of those guys out a week or two. Well once he started practicing he showed his level of experience, ended up knocking him above those other guys."

Anastasio didn't see any action as a freshman, and made the only reception of his career, a 15-yard catch against Purdue the next season. A different foot injury slowed his progress that year.

As a junior, Anastasio saw little mop-up time at receiver, but he made a niche blocking three punts from the L-1 position. He deflected two punts in the Syracuse game and was named the special teams captain twice.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It was just nice to contribute in my own way to help the team win."

Anastasio is hoping to help the team win as a pass catcher this fall. Right now he is just trying to get accustomed to playing again.

"I still feel real rusty in there, but I feel myself improving everyday. Hopefully within a few days, I will be back to my old self.

Anastasio says he has improved, but still listed the little things like getting in and out of breaks, route length, route depth and technique as things he needs to touch up on.

"I think I've made improvements as far as route technique, running my route and just finishing the play," Anastasio explained. "In the past I think I wasn't very consistent. I might have run a good route but dropped the ball. I think I am trying to put my game more together now."

Anastasio appeared to be headed towards a lot of playing time his sophomore year. He played quite a bit at the receiver position, however former head coach Tyrone Willingham and his offensive staff tended to run the ball when No. 23 was in the game. Anastasio did return 19 kicks for 353 yards (18.6 avg.) including a long of 40 yards. He's hoping to get a chance to return this year, something that hasn't happened yet in practice.

Last season, Anastasio couldn't crack the two deep. Frustration set in and Anastasio would talk to his mother about things, but his rock was his fiancée Elizabeth Peterson. His high school sweetheart would tell him to stay up and keep a positive attitude through the lack of playing time and injuries.

Peterson moved from out East to South Bend to be near Anastasio, and the two will be married this coming June.

Being engaged has led to some good-natured ribbing by teammates. The whipped word gets thrown around from time to time.

"Some of the guys will tease me about it if I stay in or don't want to go out," Anastasio said with a laugh.

Life is good. Anastasio has the girl of his dreams, and the opportunity he thought might have passed him by.


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