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Thursday November 2, 2000

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Huskies to play, pray for injured teammate

Headline Photo

By Maxx Wolfson

Arizona Daily Wildcat

UW strong safety Curtis Williams remains hospitalized

The Washington football team will have more on its minds than the Arizona Wildcats this Saturday.

The No. 8 Huskies (7-1 overall, 4-1 Pacific 10 Conference) are forced to play without injured teammate Curtis Williams, who remains in intensive care after suffering a neck injury last weekend.

Williams - the starting strong safety for Washington - was injured during a helmet-to-helmet collision with Stanford's Kerry Carter in the third quarter of last Saturday's game.

The senior from Fresno, Calif., lay motionless in Palo Alto, Calif., rain for 15-minutes while the medical team braced his head and placed Williams in an ambulance.

The safety suffered a spinal cord injury from the hit and has remained in intensive care since Saturday at the Stanford Medical Center.

"He has undergone a second MRI which again revealed no ligament damage nor any bony fracture, which hopefully can be construed as positive news," UW head coach Rick Neuheisel said. "As of yet he has regained no function. That can be because of the sedatives that he is under or it could be that there is something else that is pinching it.

"There is certainly an injury to the cord. Whether it is a bruise that will subside, only time will tell."

Dr. John O'Kane - UW's team physician - said that the injury is not only career-ending, but life-threatening as well.

"I'm not sure that we can say that Williams is completely out of the woods," O'Kane said in a written statement. "He is in the intensive care unit with a very serious injury. People have done very well in that situation and that is what we are hoping for, but I don't think it is safe to predict a worse-possible outcome. I think we have to be optimistic and hope for the best."

Williams' injury has had ripple effects throughout the Pac-10, where many coaches fear the sport has become too violent.

"Some people never sense just how wicked the collisions on the field have become," California head coach Tom Holmoe said.

UA head coach Dick Tomey said that freshman cornerback Michael Jolivette missed a severe injury by inches two weeks ago.

While covering a punt in the first quarter of UA's 14-10 loss to Oregon, Jolivette was blind-sided by UO's Wesley Mallard.

Jolivette's helmet was knocked off, and the cornerback had to receive 11 stitches to the inside of his mouth.

Unlike Williams, Jolivette was lucky enough to play again.

O'Kane feels that some athletes are better prepared to handle injuries.

"We assume that better-conditioned athletes are better prepared to handle injuries - but at the same token, this injury is very, very rare," O'Kane said.

"I think that this is a situation kind of like being struck by lightning, it is very rare, very uncommon, and very unfortunate to have happened to someone we care about. In football - in college and in high school - every year there are similar incidents."

Arizona will play against with an emotional UW team on Saturday, when the Wildcats (5-3 overall, 3-2 Pac-10) travel to Seattle to face the Huskies.

Neuheisel said the Washington players will go out and try to honor their teammate.

"The kids are anxious to do something to honor Curtis," he said. "Knowing how he played the game and how he would do anything to play the game again, they are anxious to go out and honor him and play up to their level."

Washington senior quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo said the Huskies can do just one thing for their injured teammate - defeat UA and win their final three games.

"It really opens your eyes and shows that you can't take things for granted," Tuiasosopo said. "We need to go out there and win our last three games because we know he would do the same thing for us. The best way to help him out as a team is to go out and win the next three games."

UA head coach Dick Tomey addressed his team about Williams during a 7:30 meeting Tuesday morning.

"We talked in our team meeting this morning about Curtis Williams' injuries and we don't know the full extent, but our prayers go out to him and his family," Tomey said. "Every player who plays football and everybody who has played football knows that this is the part of the game that you just despise, but all of us who play or have played or (do so) because we love it.

"It hurts your heart when something like this happens, and we certainly wish him a speedy recovery."

Whether or not the Wildcats can overcome an emotional UW team is another question altogether.