Sept. 13, 2004
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Almost the only thing Chase Lyman has kept healthy while playing football is his head.
Thank goodness for that - it certainly saved his sanity.
To best diagram his injuries, start at the top of his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and work down. There was his troublesome shoulder and a hurt finger, appendicitis and a severely torn hamstring, a banged-up knee and a sprained ankle.
All that has added up to five surgeries for No. 10 California's senior receiver.
Here's how bad his luck has been: He dislocated his finger on the first day of fall camp two years ago and five minutes later tore his hamstring muscle off the bone - causing him to need surgery, redshirt, and miss what would have been his true junior season.
"I'm done with surgery, I'm done with injuries," Lyman says now. "It's great to be back on the field with all my friends. I spent the majority of two years hurt."
Everyone around Cal sure hopes he stays healthy. Lyman is on a roll.
He caught five passes for a career-high 149 yards and a touchdown in Cal's 52-49 Insight Bowl win over Virginia Tech last season and has carried that success into this year. In two games for the Golden Bears, Lyman has caught seven passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
"Chase is awesome," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "He makes great catches. I can just throw the ball up. I threw some not-so-great passes and he got them."
Star receiver Geoff McArthur has been slowed by a strained oblique muscle so far, leaving Lyman to take most of the plays at receiver in practice.
Lyman is hoping for many more big games this fall. But he'll have to wait until the team's Pac-10 opener at Oregon State on Oct. 2. The Bears' game scheduled for Thursday night at Southern Mississippi was postponed Monday because of Hurricane Ivan.
"I expect this out of myself, and I expect this out of the team," said Lyman, who grew up in nearby Los Altos Hills and remembers all the Bears' bad years. "Our goal is to put drives together and score every time we touch the ball."
He took several months off after the bowl game last season to make sure he recovered physically. He ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash during the spring, and worked all summer to get his time down into the 4.3s.
"It was really those couple months where I could shut everything down and give everything a rest and get back to 100 percent," he said of last winter.
Now, it's hard for Lyman to even remember every body part he has hurt over the years and in what order.
The team's media guide also lists groin and hip injuries among his problems.
He injured the back of his knee before even arriving on campus in 2000, but still played as a true freshman and caught 19 passes for 313 yards. He had an appendectomy the following August and missed the season opener of his sophomore season.
Lyman was slated to start and was No. 1 on the depth chart in 2002, then tore his hamstring. He missed the season and spring ball.
"It's great to see not only his production on the field, but he has turned into one of our most popular team leaders," third-year coach Jeff Tedford said. "It's great to see Chase have the success, because he deserves it."
Not only is he popular with his teammates, Lyman is one of Cal's fastest players. He's also smart, and rarely makes a mistake - just ask safety Matt Giordano, who guards him every day in practice.
"He has great hands and a knack for the ball," Giordano said. "If you try to guard Geoff McArthur, Chase is going to burn you. Most receivers have a weakness, but Chase is big and strong, so it's hard to press him."
Both Lyman's great-grandfather and grandfather attended Cal. His grandfather, Fred Hodge, played football for the Bears under Pappy Waldorf in the late 1940s.
Lyman's father, Brad, ran track and played football at UCLA, and went on to an NFL career with the Houston Oilers.
They spoke recently about what a positive turn the Cal program has taken since Lyman graduated from high school, when the Bears were consistent losers and Stanford had just played in the Rose Bowl. Tedford's influence has people talking of a Bowl Championship Series berth for this team.
"My dad said, 'Isn't it funny how things change? You really ended up going to the right place in the long run."' Lyman recalled.
All injuries aside, Lyman agreed.