Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Before his neck surgery last October, Boston College defensive end Alex Albright said he used to lose feeling in different parts of his body. Sometimes it would happen in his arms, sometimes his legs. The inconsistency of the numbness made it difficult for doctors to pinpoint the source of the problem, and X-rays turned up negative.
Albright continued to prepare for the 2008 season and took a few hits last summer and during the start of the season that he said concerned the doctors. Eventually, after further tests, it was determined Albright was bruising his spinal cord. He played the first two games and then was declared done for the season.
"My doctor gave me an ultimatum," Albright said. "He said, 'If you want to continue to play, you have to get this surgery.' It was a no-brainer for me. Football is what I do, it's what I like, so if I have the opportunity to keep playing, I might as well keep doing it or I'll regret it later."
The decision was made easier because his roommate, safety Wes Davis, had undergone a similar procedure and came back to start the 2008 season. Now, Albright is preparing to make the comeback. He is in better health and better spirits, despite the scar that stretches about four or five inches long on the back of his neck.
If anyone can lighten the mood, it's first-year coach Frank Spaziani, who previously coached Albright as the Eagles' defensive coordinator.
"He has a nasty lookin' scar on the back of his neck, then his head spins around all the way now," Spaziani joked at his signing day press conference. "That will be an asset to him."
And Albright should be an asset to the Eagles. Albright finished the 2007 season with 38 tackles (22 solos), a team-high 8.5 sacks for 57 yards, 10 tackles-for-loss (second on the team), a quarterback hurry and two forced fumbles. He missed the final two games of the season after breaking his left forearm in the Clemson game. Albright had started the first 11 games of the season before suffering the injury, but starting in 2009 is not a guarantee. Albright said he "absolutely" has to win his starting job back.
"Every day in practice I feel like I'm fighting for my job," he said. "We've got a great group of guys, and if you make one mistake anyone can step in at any moment. That's just college football, though."
Albright said BC has a policy that injured players aren't allowed on the sidelines, so he spent last season in the stands, watching the games with Mark Herzlich's parents, or his parents or Brad Newman's parents. Instead of his No. 98 jersey, Albright wore his lucky "Matt Ryan for Heisman" T-shirt to every game (until the Eagles lost at home to Clemson, that is).
For two straight seasons, he had to watch his teammates play in the ACC title game.
"I'd like to make it to an ACC championship game and actually play this year," he said.
Following the coaching transition, and back-to-back losses to end last season, there is some uncertainty surrounding the program as the Eagles prepare for spring football with two new coordinators and possibly a new quarterback. Albright said the team is headed in the right direction.
"Ever since Spaz was announced, I always felt like things were in place," he said. "My coach remained the same, coach McGovern was still going to be there, all of the defense stayed the same. It wasn't like when coach O'Brien left and I lost my D-line coach. I've always felt secure with coach Spaz, so that was really big for me. I'm really happy he got appointed head coach."
Albright said he is taking a cautious approach to his recovery this winter, slowly adding weight, but said he feels like he's ready to play.
"It feels really great," he said. "I can't even tell I had the surgery. I have confidence in my coaches. They'll ease me back in but get me back there when I need to get there."