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Quote:FSU's Thorpe Knows Only One Speed: Fast

Tampa Tribune
Published: Aug 12, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Even his opponents cringed at the sight of Craphonso Thorpe's badly broken leg last November.

Today, they share his joy.

Thorpe was trying to block a North Carolina State defender late in a double-overtime victory Nov. 15, when Florida State tailback Leon Washington ran into Wolfpack linebacker Stephen Tulloch and the two of them crashed into the side of Thorpe's leg.

The gruesome break left many teammates, and Thorpe himself, wondering if he'd ever be able to play football again.

But Thorpe recovered, and did it much faster than many would have thought possible. As the Seminoles continue preparation for the Sept. 6 season opener against Miami, Thorpe appears ready not only to resume playing football, but also to regain his role as one of the best deep-ball receivers in the nation.

"That's a blessing,'' said North Carolina State senior cornerback Lamont Reid, the player Thorpe was blocking when the injury occurred.  "When that happened, we were scared.

"The game is competitive, but at the same time you don't ever want to see anybody go out like that.  It's a blessing to hear that he's going to be back.''

The recovery began almost as soon as doctors braced the broken tibia and fibula in Thorpe's right leg. FSU director of sports medicine Randy Oravetz said they found a clean break, allowing a better chance for the bones to be put back together and heal properly.

In mid-July, Thorpe sent notice of his return when he was the fastest among FSU players in the 40-yard dash. His electronically timed 4.3-second effort rates among the fastest ever run by an FSU athlete.

"I didn't feel like I needed to prove anything to anybody, because that's not really what I set out to do,'' Thorpe said afterward.

"That was really more for me to see where I was at.  That's a pretty good marking point, considering I'm not 100 percent yet.''

Thorpe was the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champion in the 100- and 200-meter dash before his injury. Instead of slowing him down, the injury might have helped him become a bigger, faster, stronger receiver.

Thorpe's rehabilitation included extensive weight training and stretching. He developed his leg strength and built his lanky frame into the mold of an elite NFL receiver. Thorpe weighed about 170 pounds when he got hurt. Today, he said his weight hovers around 200 pounds.

"Two years ago we ran out on the grass and I ran [the 40 in 4.4 seconds] weighing, like, 170 pounds,'' he said.  "Now, I'm like 200 running a 4.3 electronic.''

That's enough to make Coach Bobby Bowden smile.

Thorpe's 83 career receptions are almost half the combined total for all returning FSU receivers. Seven of his 11 touchdowns in 2003 were longer than 24 yards, and his average reception (20.0 yards) is the highest among returning receivers in the ACC.

"I watched him make some moves that, if a guy was injured, he couldn't have made,'' Bowden said after observing Thorpe's initial workout during FSU's first preseason practice Monday.

Still, Bowden and Oravetz remain cautious.

"He's looking good so far,'' Oravetz said.  "The doctors have released him for full participation. But if he starts to swell, we'll have to back it down and take it more slowly.''

That FSU opens with Miami - in what could be the most important game of the regular season - contributes to the anxiousness about having Thorpe available and at full strength.

Twice last season he had more than 200 receiving yards in a game. His seven catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame represented the most receiving yards ever allowed to one player by the Fighting Irish.

That game also firmly established the relationship between Thorpe and FSU quarterback Chris Rix. On more than one play against Notre Dame, Rix shook off pass rushers to blindly heave the ball deep with the hope that Thorpe would make good things happen.

More often than not, he did.

"Words can't describe how pleased I am to see him out here doing what he's doing,'' Rix said of Thorpe's recovery.  "He looks pretty far ahead of where people thought he would be at this point. If he can just stay healthy, he should be ready for Miami, and that's extremely important for the football team.''

Important, too, for those who shielded their eyes the day he was carted off the field last November.

"I was just hoping he'd be able to walk OK after seeing him that day,'' N.C. State's Reid said.  "Like I said, it's a blessing that he's back.''

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