Trey Adams appreciates all the people who knew he’d be back.
As well as the doctor who didn’t.
Long story short, the 6-foot-8, 306-pound Washington senior and 2016 first-team all-Pac-12 selection missed 16 consecutive games across two seasons with a torn ACL and a bulging disk in his back. The Wenatchee product returned for the final four games of the 2018 season, even starting in both the Pac-12 championship game victory over Utah and the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State.
To be clear, the previous paragraph doesn’t adequately describe the daily pain and determination that made Adams’ comeback possible. It can’t quantify the sweat and tears the fifth-year senior swam through to finally, emphatically emerge — hardly unscathed — on the other side. There were two injuries, two surgeries, two rehabs, several setbacks and 397 painstaking days between games.
Oh, and doubters. There were doubters, too.
“I remember specifically a doctor. I won’t say his name,” Adams said Monday. “(Because of the back injury) and the ACL, just a combination of both, he was like, ‘You probably won’t play again.’ I was like, ‘All right. I hope you’re watching the Rose Bowl in your frickin’ chair.’ ”
If he wasn’t watching before, he better be watching now. Adams said Monday that he feels “the best I’ve probably ever felt since I got hurt.” He went through all of Washington’s winter lifts and has taken every starting rep at left tackle so far this spring. He’s set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communications this summer. And he isn’t doing it to appease the masses or prove a deliberately unnamed doubter wrong.
He’s doing it because he loves the game, and he loves his team. It’s corny, and it’s true.
“You don’t really know what goes on until you get here and you see what (head coach Chris Petersen) does for you and you see all the coaches and how hard everyone works,” Adams said. “It’s just really contagious and it’s super fun.
“It’s hard. It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s so worth it, and I wouldn’t trade the experience or the surgeries for anything.”
Let’s all sit back and soak up what Adams just said. The senior told The Times last December that “I’ve come to the conclusion that my knees and my back are going to hurt for the rest of my life.” He has sacrificed a pain-free future for a team, an NFL dream and a shot at a playoff berth.
So … why? Why wear permanent scars on your knee and back? Why trudge to practice in a persistent rain? Why repeat rehabs and initiate countless head-on collisions? Why bother with a game that mercilessly massacres your body?
With clawing nicks peeling the paint on his golden helmet and red scratches across his arms, Adams considered the question.
“That’s a tough question,” he said. “Just coming here and signing to play here, there’s so much tradition here. You get hurt like I did, and you’re like, ‘OK.’ The feeling of running out of this tunnel, the feeling of playing on Saturdays here is something you miss.
“That’s definitely something that motivated me. I needed to do that more. That brings me total happiness and joy – running out here, playing with my brothers and having fun.
“You don’t know what it’s like here until you’re really on the team. A lot of people outside this place think they know what goes on here. There’s a lot of stuff you guys don’t know. It’s close in that locker room; it’s fun. It’s so worth it. I just love playing football.”
And, this might be obvious, but the Huskies love having him.
“I just love coming into the facility every day with Trey Adams,” UW offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan said Monday. “He’s like one of the best dudes on this team, and I think that’s huge because I think guys just feed into that energy. Obviously having him as our left tackle, it’s a huge blessing.”
It’s a blessing for competing quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Jake Haener, each of whom have taken starting reps this spring. It’s a blessing for junior running back Salvon Ahmed, who gets to run behind four returning starting offensive linemen from the Rose Bowl game — Adams, left guard Luke Wattenberg, center Nick Harris and right guard Jaxson Kirkland (not to mention experienced senior Jared Hilbers).
It’s even a blessing for decorated and recently departed UW running back Myles Gaskin, who gets to see his former classmate finally return to form.
“I’m excited to see Trey back full all year,” Gaskin said at UW’s pro day last week. “He came back late and he did a great job. He always does. But I’m excited for him to get a whole year under his belt. I know he’s going to ball out. He’s probably going to be a top tackle coming out (in the NFL draft) next year, so I’m excited for that.
“I came in with him. I went through all the same stuff with him. So I’m excited for him.”
Adams, too, is excited to be back where he belongs. He’s (somehow) excited for every relatively painless spring practice. He’s excited to run out of that tunnel against Eastern Washington on Aug. 31. He’s excited for seven more Saturdays on the turf inside Husky Stadium.
And while he’s winning, he trusts the doctor will be watching.
“It’s strange,” Adams said. “You get out here and people are like, ‘Practice is so hard. It’s so hard.’ But I love being out here. It’s fun. I took it for granted all the time, before I was hurt.
“Now it’s just fun to be out here and practicing hard. When you’re feeling good it’s all that much better.”