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York says shoulder not issue
Junior QB gets 1st start since '02
By Ian R. Rapoport
STARKVILLE — Immediately following shoulder surgery, Kyle York set a deadline.
Three months. In his mind, that's how long he figured it would take to return.
York, a Mississippi State quarterback, had never had surgery of any kind. He knew nothing about the procedure, other than that by time he was finished, his torn rotator cuff and torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder would be repaired.
Still, his ultra-competitive nature didn't allow him to ponder reality. It didn't allow him to realize that it takes some Major League Baseball pitchers eight times that long.
He simply didn't care.
"Maybe I was a little naive," said York, a redshirt junior from Spring, Texas. "I told myself I would get through this faster than anyone ever had."
He's that way. Always has been. Try defeating him at putt-putt golf and see how angry he gets. Not upset, but angry.
York hates being beaten at anything, and he wasn't about to let a little surgery on the one indispensible tool for a quarterback intercept his preparation.
It's why he met his line-in-the-sand and threw a football by three months — even if it was a Nerf. It's why he pushed himself through rehabilitation so hard that Dr. Rusty Linton, who performed the surgery on Dec. 1, 2003, called him one of "the mentally toughest kids on the team."
And it's why when the starter Omarr Conner went down for three weeks with a sprained MCL against LSU, York and his rebuilt shoulder will start today at Vanderbilt at 6 p.m.
My shoulder will not be a liability," York said. "Honestly, I expect it to be an asset."
He bristles at the constant questioning of his arm by those who don't understand. He said he'll throw more balls at full-speed during practice than he will in a game. If the team needs him to throw 60 passes to win, "I'll get it done," he said.
Coach Sylvester Croom likened York to a pitcher, citing the training staff's observation that "you can't expect him to go nine innings."
Tell him this, and you get a response from York the competitor. His forehead furrows, his eyes squint, and he invokes the name of another determined Texan.
"Tell (Major League Baseball's strikeout leader) Nolan Ryan he's only going to pitch three innings, and he'll give you nine," York said.
Croom stated freshman Mike Henig will play regardless, just like York alternated in a few series when Conner was still healthy.
As for York, he hasn't been healthy for two years. He originally hurt his arm last fall, when he adjusted his throwing motion to deal with constant elbow pain. It led to the torn rotator cuff.
Much like how a child learning to walk looks at his feet, York had to learn how to throw after surgery, which he hadn't done since he was an infant.
The process by which the brain knows what the arm is doing without thinking about it is called "propriaception."
"(Kyle's) brain has to redevelop subconscious pathway so he can throw without thinking about it," Linton said. "He's right on course."
He didn't throw full-speed in the spring, which was frustrating.
"Kyle's impatient," his father Toby York said. "He wanted to be back to 100 percent a few months after surgery. That's just his nature."
But feeling "normal" throwing the ball can take up to two years, according to Linton. To speed up the process, York and Linton have focused on the mechanics of the motion.
Now, after nine months, York has made sufficient progress to a point where he takes the same number of reps in practice as the other quarterbacks.
Throughout the whole process, with the pain, and the frustration and the work the likes of which he had never dealt with, York did what he could to stay even-keeled and not lose focus.
"At first he was a little down," said Toby York, a former football coach who is now an assistant superintendent in Texas. "But after the first day, he was like, 'I'm going to whip this. Just give me time.' "
For York, that time is today. He's confident enough in his preparation to know that he'll be ready for his third career start.
Before his first start, however, it was a little different.
As a redshirt freshman in 2002, York was informed he would start the season opener at Oregon when Kevin Fant didn't board the team plane because of a one game suspension. He had a day to react.
"I couldn't speak," York recalled. "I couldn't function. I think I made about 11 trips to the bathroom."
He got through the Oregon game, going 18 of 37 for 192 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss. He later led the Bulldogs to a win over Memphis. He hasn't started since then, though he has played in 17 games total. This season, he is 13 of 27 for 132 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Given fair notice that he'll be the starter, York hasn't changed a thing, which is exactly the way he wants it.
"If I have to change, it means I wasn't doing everything I could before," York said. "I know I'm going to serve my team well by my preparation — not just this week but in everything leading up to it. I'm ready."