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Chris Frome: From USC injury to senior season, Frome thrives on D-line

Greg Arbogast | Friday, November 17, 2006

It’s one of the enduring images from last year’s game versus USC.

Notre Dame defensive end Chris Frome, only minutes removed from an injury that would end his season, passionately waved his arms while being carted off the field in an effort to reenergize the suddenly silent Irish faithful.

“There was so much energy in the stadium, and everybody was so quiet when I was down that when I did pop back up, I wanted to get everybody fired back up again,” Frome said. “Some of the guys still give me a hard time about it, but it’s something to look back on.”

With Notre Dame up 21-14 late in the second quarter and the Irish crowd still reveling in Tom Zbikowski’s 60 yard punt return for a touchdown, USC quarterback Matt Leinart rolled out towards Notre Dame defensive end Victor Abiamiri. Abiamiri would tally his only sack of the day on that play, but Frome, in an effort to avoid an unnecessary roughness penalty, jumped over Leinart proceeding to come down awkwardly on his knee tearing his ACL.

“Right after it happened, I knew,” Frome said. “My knee just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t bear any weight on it at all, and I knew my season was over.”

While many know the events that unfolded in the hours immediately following Frome’s injury, few know what Frome endured over the following months.

Rehab. Lots and lots of rehab. After having surgery only three days after the USC game, Frome immediately started strengthening his knee through activities like weightlifting and underwater jogging. Six months later, Frome started running again, but he was held out of spring practice due to his inability to cut.

“You don’t realize how much you miss football until you see someone else playing it, or you see that you can’t be a part of it with your teammates,” Frome said. “I missed it a lot. I’m really lucky to have this last season.”

While ACL injuries are often synonymous with ruined careers and losing a step, Irish defensive line coach Jappy Oliver had nothing but positive things to say regarding the rehab process of his senior defensive end.

“I think he’s quicker and moves better,” Oliver said. “Before the injury, I thought he played strong, but he seems like he’s playing stronger. He’s a more confident individual.”

Judging by his performance so far this season, Frome isn’t feeling any lingering effects of his knee injury. Through nine games this season, Frome has seventeen tackles (seven solo), .5 tackles for a loss, .5 sacks, and three quarterback hurries. Compare those numbers with Frome’s career numbers entering the 2006 season of fourteen tackles (seven solo) and one quarterback sack.

While Frome’s numbers may not match those of fellow defensive linemen Abiamiri or Trevor Laws, Oliver knows the difference Frome makes on the defensive line.

“He might not have the luxury to get a lot of stats, but he does his job well enough to let others be the recipients of plays,” Oliver said.

The others referred to by Oliver usually take the form of senior defensive linemen Abiamiri, Laws, and Derek Landri who have formed a formidable defensive front along with Frome over their four years together at Notre Dame. Combined, the four have totaled 140 tackles, eighteen sacks, twenty-one quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles this season.

“We feed off each other as far as energy,” Frome said. “We know where we’re going to be during a play, and it’s kind of like a race to the ball or the quarterback. As you can see, Vick (Abiamiri) is beating me there a bunch of times.”

If Frome’s football career had gone according to his plan from a young age, he never would have lined up in an Irish uniform, much less alongside Abiamiri, Laws, and Landri. Growing up with two parents from the Midwest, Frome pictured himself playing at a different school from America’s heartland.

“Honestly, I grew up a Michigan fan, and I always kind of envisioned myself playing for Michigan,” Frome said. “I didn’t like Notre Dame too much. It wasn’t until I got here that I realized it’s such an amazing place.”

After arriving in South Bend during the fall of 2002, Frome has spent his time both rushing the quarterback and tackling his coursework. A business major who graduated with a degree in finance from the Mendoza College of Business last spring, Frome finished his undergraduate career with a GPA of 3.30. As for deciding between a football career and following his degree, Frome is leaving his options open.

“I see myself working out, trying to make it (in the NFL), and talking to the coaches to see where I fit,” Frome said. “I could definitely see myself going to graduate school or law school. I have a lot of options.”

With two regular season games and a bowl game left on the schedule, the future will have to wait for Frome, who’s all business on the field for the Irish right now.