Defensive back looking for redemption

You could see it on their faces. The disappointment, the anguish, the faces of those that had come so far to let it all slip away within a matter of moments. When Washington lost to Texas 47-43 in the 2001 Culligan Holiday Bowl after being up by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter, there was one Husky that took the loss harder than any other. His name is Chris Massey.

"They were pretty much just throwing the ball up and I got lost with the ball a couple of times," Massey told Dawgman.com about the events that led to Texas' victory over the Huskies. "Unfortunately they caught the ball. I was on those guys. With four DB's out there, sometimes you have games where nothing falls right for you, and for me that was one of those games. I need to redeem myself. I need to show 'em that I can do it. I know a lot of people were down on me after that game, but it was just one game. I've played in a lot of games."

Chris certainly isn't down on himself. "I think I did real well. Of course I had a bad game the last game of the season so I didn't get a chance to redeem myself but I'm taking that with me next year so I can show 'em I can play."

When it comes to pointing fingers after a loss like that, you won't see it on the Washington sidelines. Chris' teammates were nothing if not encouraging towards the 5-11, 175-pound redshirt sophomore from Moreno Valley, California.

"The guys on the team are a big help. The coaches are too. The coaches are going to get on you for a second but then they are going to tell you to go out there and make a good play the next time. Just go out there and do it."

If you think Massey shied away from the critics after his play against the Longhorns, that didn't happen. Chris took the hits and kept on ticking. "I'm willing to take the criticism," he said. "Of course they are going to criticize my play, but I hope they don't think that just from one game that that's my game. I've played two years here already for the Dawgs and I feel like I've played well. You can't judge a player just on one game."

And in fact, Chris has taken his lumps and learned his lessons the same way another former Husky, Omare Lowe, did. Last year Lowe was the senior leader in the defensive backfield, but just a couple of years before that no one believed Omare would end up being a starter let alone possibly getting a shot to play in the NFL, but now that just might happen.

"He talked to me after the game and a couple of times afterward," Chris said of Lowe's advice to the young cover corner. "He just told me that you have to have a short memory and to go back out there and get it. He said that he's had that happen to him before, had bad games before but he just had to shake it off and play hard."

The concept of having a 'short memory' is one defensive backs have to live by, and Massey has tested his gray matter time and time again. "I learned that you have to have a short memory as a corner and you are going to get criticized," Chris said. "You are going to have bad days but you have to take them in stride. I'm growing up and I'm getting older now, so I'm learning that. Things are going to happen and you have to take everything in stride."

Chris hasn't always had the luxury of taking things in stride since his career at Washington began nearly three years ago. Sure, he was able to kick back and enjoy his first year as a redshirt, but he broke his collarbone in a car accident just shortly after the 1999 season had completed, setting Chris back a ways physically. It was a costly break in more ways than one.

"I've gotten a lot of upper body strength since the accident," he said. "It was like I had to start all over again because I didn't have any strength. I've just been working harder and harder every season."

A scant nine months later, he was seeing action in the Huskies' seconday. But not only did he play in the very first game of the 2000 season against Idaho, he started. With Anthony Vontoure suspended, Massey was pressed into action. He ended up starting four of the last five games for Washington, including the 2001 Rose Bowl.

"That second year I had to get ready fast," Chris admitted. "There was a lot of times where I was put in, like in the beginning of the season, but I was able to step up my play. But towards the end of the season I was getting the starts. I started in the Rose Bowl and that was a great thing for me. It was my first year actually playing, so that was a great accomplishment for me."

For a second-year player originally from Southern California, a trip to the Rose Bowl was like a dream come true. Massey tried not to get too caught up in the hype but did confess to a little star-gazing as he came through the tunnel.

"I tried not to, but right when we ran out there I looked up," he said. "I looked around and it was amazing. There were so many people around. It was just a great feeling. And winning the game was the best thing. Everybody was ecstactic after the game in the locker room and everyone was having a lot of fun and we partied afterward. We just had a lot of fun winning that game."

It would be an understatement to say that Massey felt compelled to do even better than he had his first year. He had to improve. "Going into this last year, I just felt like I had to step it up even more," he said.

And then it all came crashing back to the Texas game. And the craziest part of all was that he was there to make the plays. "That's the hard part about it," Chris said. "It's hard to be right there and not be able to make a play. That's what was so disappointing to me. It was just an off day."

But now he knows there cannot be any more off days. "I need to get a lot tougher this year," he said. "I need to give it to the receivers off the line. I'm out to give 'em hell this year."

But he also plans to deflect the criticism and turn it into positive energy on the field. He wants to have more fun, like the fun he had returning a blocked kick 69 yards against the Vandals in 2001. "That was a great feeling," he said of the runback. "It was like 'Ah, I finally get the ball in my hands again!', because I haven't touched the ball since high school. It was so much fun returning kicks in high school. That just felt really good to have the ball in my hands again."

Chris appears to want the ball now more than ever, not just figuratively, but literally. "I hope so," he said when asked about the possibility of returning kicks. "I hope they give me a chance out there. I'd like to get a chance to prove something out there."

For the time being, he'll be proving himself time and time again at corner going up against the likes of Reggie Williams, Paul Arnold and Charles 'ET' Frederick. The team has got Ann Arbor on their minds - already.

"Oh yeah," Chris said with a big grin. "We've talked about it already. You have to look ahead. You got to look ahead to that first game against Michigan. It's going to be a great game. I know the Oregon game is going to be a big game. All the other ones too."

Massey has always been known as one of the faster players ever since he stepped on campus, and he proved it again last week during pro-testing days. "The guys overall looked pretty fast," he said of the team's overall performance. "A lot of guys ran real low. The new guys got a chance to get out there and they did a good job. They were looking real good."

Chris' time? A 4.43 on the track, bettered only by Jelani Harrison's 4.39. But Massey isn't bitter. "Jelani ran faster. It got under my skin a little bit, but I'll get over it." (laughs)

Short memory.

Dawgman.com Top Stories