Trey Adams wouldn’t have been able to comfortably sit on a stool inside Husky Stadium and address the media back in August.
Throughout fall camp, he said two bulging discs made it feel like somebody was digging a coat hanger into his back. He didn’t want to sit out, so he kept practicing. But by the end of the camp, the pain was so severe he couldn’t even sit. That’s when Adams decided he needed surgery.
A preseason All-American at left tackle, Adams underwent surgery the week after Washington’s season-opening loss to Auburn. Before the back injury, Adams was on track to return from the torn ACL he suffered against Arizona State in October 2017.
Afterward, he was looking at another long road to recovery.
“I just look for the positive things,” he said after UW’s practice on Saturday. “I don’t really dwell on the negative things that happened. I’ve always been a positive person.”
Some of that positivity stemmed from taking joy in the little victories, like walking. Some of it came from surrounding himself with people. Adams tried to stay as active as possible so he didn’t miss out. He wanted to be around his teammates.
Close friend and UW center Nick Harris said he did his best to keep Adam’s spirits high.
“It was a hard time for him,” Harris said. “I tried to make sure I was making him laugh to keep his hopes up and stuff.”
Typical recovery time from Adams’ surgery is eight weeks, so he knew returning to the field was a possibility. But it seemed like an unlikely one, and Adams really didn’t think he’d be back playing for the Huskies this season.
“Everyone heals different,” he said. “I was ready to come back. I wasn’t scared or anything. I didn’t know what the end result would be because I never had back surgery.”
But in the second quarter of UW’s home finale against Oregon State, Adams entered a game for the first time this season. He’s played in every game since then, including three quarters against Washington State after his replacement, Jared Hilbers, suffered an injury. He then started the Pac-12 championship game.
“He put in a lot of work on his own with the trainers and stuff,” Harris said. “I’m probably not as happy as his parents (that he’s back) but I’m about as happy as that because I feel like he put in a lot of work to be back on the field and now he’s performing and getting better everyday.”
The adjustment to games wasn’t as difficult as expected. UW’s practices, Adams said, are harder.
“We have so much stuff going on,” he said. “If you don’t (get a conversion) in a game, you’re out. At practice, if you don’t get a fourth down, it’s just, ‘All right, reload.’ You get more reps in practice. The games are really a lot easier than practice, just stress-wise and physically. Doing all those practices really helped me out to get ready for the games.”
He compared his early practices after surgery to climbing a mountain. There were days where he played through pain. There were does where he felt good. And eventually, Adams reached the plateau.
“That’s kind of where I’m at now,” he said. “I’ve worked all year to get to this spot, to feel this way. It works out that we’re going to the Rose Bowl and we got one game left. It’s going to be amazing.”
On Saturday, Adams confirmed that he will be back for a fifth season next year. Including the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, Adams will have played in four games, meaning he’s still eligible to redshirt under the NCAA rules.
It’s a plan he never really considered before. But close friends Harris and Henry Roberts encouraged the idea when he approached them about it.
“I feel like I’m in a great place and situation,” Adams said. “There’s no negatives to it. You get another year to be a student-athlete, another year to work on yourself. Given that I want to go to the NFL, I get another year to develop myself.”