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Stepinac in the news! Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Posted Thursday, November 24, 2005 by Mike ODonnell

Stepinac's Giardini thankful for chance to chase dream
(Original publication: November 24, 2005)

On the way to attaining his dreams, Chris Giardini stumbled upon a nightmare that has made peaceful sleep a thing of the past.

Nowadays, the Stepinac senior can't seem to avoid waking up in a panic, seeing the same awful image again and again. In his dreams he is chasing a scrambling quarterback, only before he makes the tackle, his foot gets caught in the turf, twisting his right knee and causing severe injury.

Unfortunately for the 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive end/offensive tackle, the play his mind won't let him forget occurred during the Crusaders' 35-21 loss to Fordham Prep earlier this season.

"Every night when I go to bed, I can't fall asleep," Giardini said. "When I do, I have the dream playing over and over. It's something I'll never forget in my life. It broke me."

Giardini tore the MCL in his right knee and sprained his ACL. It meant the end of his high school career. It was also a huge blow for a player dreaming of playing college football.

He'll also miss out on the Crusaders' biggest game of the season, today's Turkey Bowl against rival White Plains at Parker Stadium at 10:30 a.m.

"Chris was devastated by his injury," Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell said. "He worked very hard to get in shape and ready for college. He really didn't imagine his season would end the way it did. It is very hard for high school football players to realize that they may never play again and getting hurt could be one play away."

But that all changed when, on the advice of coaches and family, Giardini summoned the courage to contact the college recruiters who were interested in him.

"In my mind, I was like, 'That's it for college,' " he said. "I was emotionally and physically down. But one day I woke up and I said, 'Forget it.' I took the time to call each of my schools and I told them the situation."

Aside from clearing his conscience, the move also brought a wave of relief. Much to Giardini's surprise, the schools he contacted didn't hesitate to let him know he would still be in their plans.

After a successful surgery, Giardini has begun rehabbing and is very optimistic about his progress. Although he won't be playing today, Giardini still realizes he has plenty for to be thankful for.

"I'm ecstatic, I'm so grateful to everyone that's helped me with the rehab," he said. "Not a lot of kids get to go through (the college-recruiting process). Just a month ago I thought it was over. It's just wonderful."

Giardini prefers playing defensive line but is open to playing on either side of the ball wherever he ends up. In just five games this season, he had already racked up 28 tackles, four sacks, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

"Chris has handled being hurt in a positive way," O'Donnell said. "He has attended as many practices as he could and comes to every game."

Giardini's top three college choices — Cornell, Lehigh and Holy Cross — are still the same, and he plans on taking full advantage of his five official visits before making a final choice. All the while, he will make his education the main priority.

"Academics is very important to me," he said. "A miniscule percentage go on to play professional sports. ... I want to get a college degree from a school with great tradition. I want to help improve their team and have those memories as a scholar-athlete."

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