Playing with a cast, rugged safety thrives for Portland State
by: ©2006 TROY WAYRYNEN, Vikings Jordan Senn (left) and Dominic Dixon have a lot to celebrate so far. Portland State is 13th in the country after impressive wins in its first two games.

Football is a hard enough game that a player had better have full use of his limbs if he expects to get a lot done.

Under the circumstances, Jordan Senn is coping.

Scratch that. Portland State's junior strong safety is thriving despite playing with a padded cast to protect an injured right wrist.

The Beaverton High graduate initially tore ligaments in his wrist in March while doing power clean-lifts - 350 pounds worth.

'The wrist popped,' says Senn, who will be in action Saturday when the 13th-ranked Vikings (2-0) play David to California's Goliath in Berkeley. 'I didn't know how severe it was. I just thought it was sprained, but it never healed 100 percent.'

In Portland State's season-opening win at New Mexico, Senn re-injured his wrist while making a tackle. Post-game X-rays revealed torn ligaments, and the doctor offered a choice of surgery or continuing to play with a cast. Easy decision.

'I was fine playing with the cast,' the 5-11, 225-pound Senn says. 'I'm assuming I'll play with it all season, which is OK. I can still grab things.'

Such as the football, which Senn snared for an interception in the first half of PSU's 45-3 rout of Northern Colorado last Saturday. Good thing. The Vikings line up their strong safety as a virtual outside linebacker, and they would sorely miss Senn's considerable contributions.

'Jordan just keeps getting better,' 14th-year PSU head coach Tim Walsh says of the young man who is playing a new position after starting all last season at free safety. 'His speed (4.5 in the 40) is extremely good for this level of football (Division I-AA), and he's playing physical after getting his weight up.

'Every snap through the first two games, he's gotten better. His movements are more fluid; his reads are clearer. We have him at a position where he's going to be scary good. The best is yet to come.'

Senn is tough. Two years ago, he broke the Portland State javelin record with a throw of 227-11. Last spring, he couldn't practice through the track season because of the bad wrist. Then he went out and won the Big Sky Conference championship with a throw of 215 feet. Don't ask him if the wrist hurt.

Senn is a special kid in a lot of ways. A 3.85 student majoring in exercise science, he is a good bet to earn academic All-America honors this season. That might not win him the best student award in his apartment, however. Junior defensive end Cole Smith is a 3.5 student in engineering. Junior receiver Kyle Faulk, graduated with a 3.9 in math and now is in the master's degree program for business.

'It helps to have roommates who are good students,' Senn says. 'We don't have a lot of distractions. We're all pretty busy with school. Most nights, we're sitting around in our rooms doing homework or talking football.'

Senn was voted as one of Portland State's three captains this season.

'Most of the kids who become captain get 15, 20 votes,' Walsh says. 'Jordan had like 70 votes out of 90. That shows what his teammates think of him. You take football, school, extracurricular activities, social life - this is a great human being.'

Senn says upon graduation he intends to get paramedic certification and become a firefighter.

'I can't imagine having a normal 9-to-5 job,' he says. 'I've always been real active. I work outside doing manual labor for a summer job. The money issue is not a real big thing to me. I'd rather stay active and feel like my job is meaningful.'

Walsh says he 'would be shocked' if Senn doesn't earn first-team all-Big Sky honors this fall, but that's getting ahead of the story. Senn's focus is on helping the Vikings make a good showing at Cal on Saturday.

'(The Bears) are going to be real athletic,' he says. 'They have a great running back (Marshawn Lynch) and extremely fast receivers. Any time we made a mistake against Northern Colorado, we could make up for it athletically. If we make a mistake against Cal, they'll turn it into a touchdown.

'But in all my football career, I've never gone into a game not thinking we could win. If that's not the case, there's no point in playing. I believe we can win. Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. We're all excited for this opportunity. Playing D-I opponents is going to make us that much better for league games, which matters the most.'

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