TAMPA - On one of the last plays of Tampa Catholic's green-and-white scrimmage Aug. 18, something strange and disturbing happened on the far side of the field as 400 fans watched.
Drew Zink went down and ...
Didn't get up.
'It was eerie,' Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez said. 'Because Drew has never, ever, ever not gotten up. I don't care how hard he's been hit or whatever might have happened on the play, he's always bounced right back up.
'So when he just laid there on the turf it made you think, oh man, this must be serious.'
Zink, a senior running back who gained more than 1,000 yards last season, said a defender rolled over his ankle and he heard, 'a pop.' Pain shot up his leg, and as he lay there he kept hearing that 'pop' in his head.
'I thought, OK, don't be stupid,' he said. 'I told myself if this is really serious. I shouldn't get up and possibly make things worse. So I decided to stay down and wait for somebody to run out and take a look.'
While he waited, anxiety took over.
'I thought, I've worked years to get in this position,' Zink said. 'I thought this is a team that could make a run at a state championship, and man, I really, really don't want to let them down. When they took me over to the sideline I was really worried.'
After getting a standing ovation from the fans, he was rushed to the doctors, who confirmed that he had suffered a deep ankle bruise.
'Thank goodness,' Henriquez said, looking at the X-ray in his office. 'Whew.'
If Zink had broken or torn something, the ramifications would have run a lot deeper than losing 1,000 yards.
'Drew is one of our anchors,' said first-year sophomore quarterback Christian Green. 'We all depend on him for leadership and knowledge. We look up to him. I look up to him.
'It helps me to feel better knowing he's behind me.'
Zink said it's not in his nature to play it safe, but he was going to be smart about the ankle in the first week or so after the injury, because 'there's no sense in hurting it worse now and not be ready for later when it's really important - like for the playoffs.'
He says he knows his offensive line is experienced with five seniors, his quarterback is one of the county's most talented athletes, his receivers are fast and deep, his defense is stout, and he, like every other Crusader is bigger, stronger and faster than last year when they went 9-3 and lost only 10-7 in the second round of the playoffs.
All that considered, he said when he got the news it was nothing more than a sprain, he may have been 'the happiest person in the state.'
'It's so exciting right now at Tampa Catholic,' Zink said. 'So much energy, so many high expectations. I'm so happy to be a part of it.'
About 400 fans showed up for Tampa Catholic's intrasquad game Saturday, which is testament to love for the Crusaders' stadium, opened in 2005. That's why last year Tampa Catholic played its first game at home against archrival Jesuit. This year, the stadium's improvements include a new concession stand and a refurbished locker room.
ABOUT THE CRUSADERS
STADIUM: Crusaders Stadium, 4630 North Rome Ave., Tampa
COACH: Bob Henriquez (78-48, 12 years at Tampa Catholic)
ON OFFENSE: The quarterback is sophomore Christian Green, a rising star as a freshman receiver last year who should make up for his lack of experience with his athletic ability. Eric Gerken will be one of Green's main targets, although seven other receivers will be in TC's mix. The strength and foundation for TC's offense is senior running back Drew Zink, and its line, which features five big seniors, four of them starters from last season.
ON DEFENSE: The Crusaders play a 3-4 defense that will involve a lot more blitzing than last year. Expect a linebacker, safety or corner to rush the quarterback on nearly every play. The anchor of the defense is middle linebacker P.J. Briody, who is surrounded by talent. On the line, defensive end Marco Mendoza leads the way after racking up 10 sacks last season. The secondary is a solid veteran group, featuring Daniel Lee and Jeremy Wilkes at the corners and Ralph Grover and Jamarlon Powe at the safeties.