The brutal nature of this sport has taken its toll on Sean Constantine. There was back surgery. There was knee surgery. There was thumb surgery. Last August, just before the season started, there was a broken ankle on a freak play during a scrimmage, another surgery, more rehab, his season lost.
Spring practice, then, is something to appreciate. Healthy again after the fourth surgery of his college career, Constantine, a fifth-year senior linebacker, hopes to make it through his final season without any casts or crutches.
“Each time, unfortunately, you gain another level of expertise to the recovery process,” Constantine said after Monday’s practice. “And (after a) fourth one, I’ve got to be a little knowledgeable on it.”
He describes the play that wiped out his junior season as “one in a million.” During a late-August scrimmage, Constantine was pursuing a screen pass when a defensive lineman rolled up on his ankle. He felt it pop, and thought: “Damn it. Please don’t be my season.”
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At first glance, UW’s trainer told Constantine it might just be a high ankle sprain.
“And then we get in there, and I see the bulge coming off the side of my leg,” Constantine said, “and I’m like, ‘yeah, it’s broken.’ ”
So, rehab it was. Constantine drew inspiration from former teammates who withstood similar plights, particularly Kasen Williams’ broken leg in 2013 and Deontae Cooper’s three ACL surgeries.
“You’ve just got to keep getting better, keep staying positive, because negativity’s going to ruin you,” Constantine said. “That’s just what I did. At least I tried to.”
Watching from the sideline wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t all bad, either. It gave Constantine a greater appreciation for college football’s peripheral matters. He paid more attention to the crowd and the stadium atmosphere, struck by “how much it means to people.”
A four-time 3A state champion at Bellevue High School, Constantine has appeared in 18 games and totaled 15 tackles in two seasons at Washington after redshirting in 2013. He has spent time this spring with the No. 2 defense at middle linebacker. Competition for a spot on the two-deeps at that position will be steep; Azeem Victor starts, and third-year sophomore DJ Beavers — sitting out this spring with an injury — also has starting experience.
UW linebackers coach Bob Gregory said Constantine “has to still get back into that football-type shape,” but he hopes to see him contribute.
“He’s a really smart player,” Gregory said. “Hopefully, he’ll be in the rotation. Hopefully he’s helping us in special teams. He’s one of the tougher guys out here. He’s been through a lot of adversity. I think he’s going to have a good senior year.”
Staying healthy, Constantine said, is “the key to this year.”
“I came into college with all these hopes and dreams and that kind of stuff,” said Constantine, who said he plans to attend trade school and become an electrical lineman after the 2017 season. “And not saying it’s gone bad or anything, but it’s gone differently than I would imagine. And seeing as how it has gone differently, I’ve appreciated it more. I’ve appreciated the people that have stuck with me. That’s all I can really do.
“This year, I’m going to give it my all and give back to Husky football, because they’ve always been here for me.”