Severe dislocation, said the trainer. Going to need surgery, said the orthopedic surgeon. Can I practice tomorrow? asked Wikre.
The surgeon grimaced. Six months recovery time, he said. Which for Wikre meant the end of his career -- and with Mesa State undefeated in conference, no less.
Before you condemn what this 21-year-old did next -- and plenty of people have in the last two weeks -- you need to understand who he is. Since fourth grade Wikre has been playing football. "Living it, really," says his fiancée,
The field is where Wikre says he feels most comfortable, where "time slows down" and he finds beauty "in a perfect pass play or a running back hitting a hole." He's a bear of a man, with meat slab arms and a pale shaved head underlined by a bristly beard, but his voice goes soft when discussing his teammates. To him they're brothers,
Wikre would often tell the guys he'd take a bullet for them, and the way he would say it -- dead earnest, eyes unwavering -- it wasn't the least bit hokey. And so he didn't even wait for the surgeon to finish speaking. "Cut it off," Wikre said. "It's just a pinkie."
He never meant it as a statement on the importance of sports, but it became one. Grand Junction's
In fact Wikre considers himself lucky: He got to choose; most athletes don't. One day they're playing power forward, the next they're laid up with a career-ending torn ACL. But he made his deal, and though he missed one game, he considers it a bargain. O.K., he can't reach the
Last week, six days after the injury, Wikre was back at practice, amped as ever. Dismiss football as "just sports" if you like, but try asking former college athletes -- any level, not just Division I -- about their playing days and see if they don't admit to treasuring the memories more each year, carefully lifting them from some internal drawer to be revisited as waistlines expand, knees stiffen and life presses on. It is a rare thing for a 21-year-old to understand, in the surge of the moment, how indelible the games of his youth will eventually be.
So when it comes to the question of regret for Wikre, there's no question at all. "If I had left it on," he says, "I know I would've regretted