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Antwan Applewhite is ready to go

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Jul 28, 2010.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Linebacker went stir crazy after injury ruined 2009 season

    BY SCOTT BAIR - North County Times Posted: July 27, 2010 11:40 pm

    SAN DIEGO -- Antwan Applewhite isn't a fan of free time. His life is so structured around football that the seasons don't change according to the weather.

    It has been that way for more than a decade -- Applewhite cycling between training camp, regular season and the offseason workouts designed to rebuild and restart yet another campaign.

    But in last season's opener at Oakland, Applewhite's hamstring snapped. So, too, did his beloved routine. The Chargers outside linebacker lost the forward momentum and good standing he had built while rising from nameless rookie free agent to practice-squad grunt to contributing member of the 53-man roster.

    On that September evening, he was just another casualty of the physical sport he loved. It took two full years to reach respectability, and one bad play to take it all away.

    "Once an injury of that magnitude happens to you -- especially so early in the season -- it's an immediate smack in the face," the San Diego State graduate said after Tuesday's training camp practice for rookies and select veterans. "We football players like to think of ourselves as invincible, so a season-ending injury can mess with your psyche."

    It certainly did for Applewhite, especially without a football routine and athletic ability to fall back on. Sapped of his strength, Applewhite fell into a rut. While he maintained contact with his position mates, sat in on meetings and took mental reps, nothing seemed normal.

    Applewhite was bored. He was stir crazy without the ability to move freely.

    So Applewhite reluctantly revived a hobby that he had enjoyed as a child. He dusted off a stack of comic books that he had collected while growing up, and immersed himself in the fantastic world of superheros and their never-ending quest to save the day. He identified with their struggles and believed that, like them, he would triumph in the face of adversity.

    As a reminder of this difficult period and the sacrifice it would take to regain his form, Applewhite decided to tattoo the characters he identified with on his back.

    "I had a lot of down time, and it became something to keep my mind off being hurt," said Applewhite, who also has tattoos on both arms and on his shoulders.

    "They're all comic book characters I loved growing up, but there's a lesson to be learned from each of them."

    Applewhite sat through 10 four-hour sessions, as an artist transformed his back into a mural that he'll always identify with that part of his life. The most prominent feature is the Incredible Hulk -- who, like Applewhite, learned to respect and control his strength and athletic gifts.

    Applewhite has done so over the last 10 months, working his way back into football shape in preparation for what could be a career-defining season.

    "It's like starting over in a sense," Applewhite said. "I believed last year was a jumping point for me. I had been here a couple years and I really felt comfortable in the defense. My confidence was on the rise, but it dropped because of what happened physically. But I've rehabbed well, I'm 100 percent, and I'm ready to start the season.

    "The mind was always willing. The soul was always ready. I just had to get my body on the same page."

    Now Applewhite has to prove to his coaches that he has regained his previous form. He was a player on the rise in 2008, when a knee injury to Shawne Merriman helped him earn a promotion from the practice squad.

    Applewhite played well on defense when the chance was given and proved to be a stout special teams performer. He secured a backup role at outside linebacker last season, less than 18 months after being cut from the 2007 practice squad and forced to work the graveyard shift as a downtown Los Angeles security guard.

    Entering that fateful game against the Raiders, Applewhite thought his rough road had finally been paved. And while the injury set that back a year, Applewhite hopes another quality training camp will lay the foundation for a productive season and a long career.

    "There has never been a question about his work ethic or his intelligence," Chargers linebackers coach John Pagano said. "Antwan's an extremely smart football player, and that is his advantage moving forward. He had a track record of playing well before the bad injury. As a coach, you're hoping he can regain the form he had two years ago.

    "If he steps in and proves he hasn't lost a beat, there won't be any problems at all."
  2. Rainman

    Rainman BoltTalker

    Sep 4, 2006
    Can't say I'm impressed by the comic book stuff, but I've liked Antwaan's potential for a couple of years.

    He really HAS played well on special teams, and it DOES take awhile for a UFDA to make the transition from DE to OLB, and do that at the highest level of competition.

    Here's to Antwaan! :tup:

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