AP Interview: N.C. State lineman talks about his season on sidelines

Updated: October 27, 2003, 6:15 PM ET
ESPN

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Chris Colmer has tossed and turned in bed for two months, his left arm burning and his mind racing about his NFL future.

The 6-foot-6, 305-pound senior, one of the nation's top offensive linemen, hasn't played a down this season for North Carolina State because of a rare illness he contracted in fall camp.

Parsonage-Turner syndrome, possibly brought on by a viral infection, is causing pain, numbness, tingling and weakness from his left shoulder down to his biceps and into his forearm.

"I'm 22 and I have syndromes and diseases," Colmer told The Associated Press in his only interview since he was stricken. "It's depressing. Just the name of it doesn't sound good."

Colmer has seen five neurologists and all said the same thing: It will eventually go away. But he's seen little progress since mid-August.

The syndrome, for which an exact cause is unknown, involves inflammation of nerves to the muscles of the chest, shoulders and arms. It begins with severe pain across the shoulder and upper arm, followed by weakness, atrophy and paralysis. Though patients usually recover completely, it can last for months, sometimes years.

Colmer said he takes a fistful of pills every day, from vitamins to sleeping pills to a variety of painkillers.

"It just burns all the time," he said. "Can you imagine this for two months? They're trying to knock this thing out of my body."

When Colmer came to N.C. State from Port Jefferson, N.Y., his goal was to become a teacher, not necessarily a pro lineman. As a player, "I was garbage when I came here," he said.

After 35 career starts and 2,288 plays, including a team record 151 knockdown blocks in 2002, Colmer came into this season hoping to move up the NFL draft board.

Now, with just three games left for the Wolfpack (6-3), his senior season likely will come and go without any playing time.

"Everybody's ultimate goal is to come into the season as a highly touted player and having scouts recognize who you are," Colmer said. "It's exciting. It's motivation to play for, and then I go down like this and the scouts just wish I was healthy. They've told me if I'm a question mark it's going to be hard for us to draft you."

He attends practice and works on his footwork and hands, then heads to rehab each day to try to add strength to his left arm. He also attends games, helping other offensive linemen with their technique.

"He downplays it so much when he's around us and he laughs and he has fun," star quarterback Philip Rivers said. "But he's told me it's just terrible at home. It's just a waiting game."

"I feel so bad for him," coach Chuck Amato said. "Can you imagine what's going through Chris Colmer's mind?"

It's nothing close to the satisfaction of playing.

"I definitely get teary-eyed every Saturday," Colmer said. "It's tough to wake up knowing that I can't play. I know I can be helping this team out and they can use me."

The emotional pain goes beyond his helplessness to his team. This summer, one of Colmer's closest childhood friends died of cancer at the age of 23.

"One of the things that kills me is I was going to dedicate the season to him and I thought whatever money I got (from the NFL), I would help his family out," Colmer said.

Colmer's parents have tried to support their son, attending games and gauging his mood.

"It depends on a given day. When he really thinks about what's going on, it gets him down," Jim Colmer said Monday.

"As it lagged on longer and longer it became a major concern. Now it's a major, major concern. It's a question of time and no one wants to put a time limit on it."

There is a possibility Colmer, who has already redshirted, could gain a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA for a medical hardship.

He would be interested in returning to college if he needs to prove his health to NFL scouts. But it won't be quite the same.

"I can tell you one thing, football won't rule my life like it did," Colmer said. "I appreciate my family and friends at home a lot more now."

^------=

On the Net:

National Organization for Rare Disorders: http://www.rarediseases.org/

N.C. State athletics: http://www.gopack.com

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index