Healed, Sehorn better than ever

Giants: Grounded for more than a year with a devastating knee injury, Jason Sehorn is back in the spotlight for all the right reasons.

January 26, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - Jason Sehorn seems to live a charmed life. He has recovered from a knee injury that threatened his career as a Pro Bowl cornerback with the New York Giants. He has met the woman of his (and others') dreams, actress Angie Harmon. He has made the plays, one in particular, that helped his team get to the Super Bowl.

Yet Sehorn, now 29, has not forgotten when things weren't so good.

It was a little more than a year ago. He could barely drag himself out of bed as he tried to rehabilitate the knee that he tore in an exhibition game before the 1998 season. He had watched his marriage fall apart in less than a year. He saw the Giants getting worse instead of better.

"I kept telling myself I wasn't going to give up," Sehorn recalled this week. "They [the Giants] were going to have to give up on me."

What helped Sehorn endure the first significant struggles of his career was the memory of his childhood in Mount Shasta, Calif., being raised in a single-parent household, taking a circuitous route to football stardom at the University of Southern California.

"You have to remind yourself where you came from and how far you've come," he said. "I was blessed to be raised the way I was."

If Sehorn isn't all the way back to where he was before the injury, when he was considered among the fastest and most spectacular cornerbacks in the NFL, he's close. The interception return for a touchdown he made in his team's opening playoff victory against the Philadelphia Eagles spoke volumes about his comeback.

"Health-wise I'm where I was before," said Sehorn, whose right knee was totally reconstructed after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament. "The last couple of weeks have enabled me to have the confidence."

It has been, in retrospect, a longer road back than Sehorn could have ever imagined. He said he didn't even feel part of the team when he missed the entire 1998 season and that he didn't feel all that comfortable when he returned six games into the 1999 season.

But he slowly started putting his life, and career, back together. First, he was introduced to Harmon by his mother after a game last season at Giants Stadium. Nancy Sehorn didn't know Harmon personally, just as the actress who plays prosecutor Abbie Carmichael on the Emmy Award-winning drama "Law & Order."

It took until the middle of this season for Sehorn to start looking like the player who had gone to the Pro Bowl in 1997. Teammates Jessie Armstead and Amani Toomer helped Sehorn with the mental aspects of his rehab, having undergone similar operations and recoveries themselves.

"Everybody was waiting to see the Jason Sehorn of old, just like they waited for me," Armstead said. "At first, it caused a lot of frustration, because there's a pressure on you to perform at that level. But I think we started to see that the last month. The play he made against the Eagles was just the icing on the cake."

It might have been the most remarkable defensive play made in the NFL this season. Sehorn's interception of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb started with Sehorn on his back. Seeing the ball, Sehorn batted it up in the air, caught it, got up and ran for a touchdown.

"It was a gift of God," Sehorn said. "It's nice to do something like that, but that wasn't the defining play that said, 'I'm back.'"

Those plays had come during the course of the season and, for the most part, were barely noticed. Sehorn found himself staying with receivers who had seemingly gained a step - or two - on him during his absence.

"He plays a lot smarter," said Ravens wide-out Qadry Ismail. "He tries to pick his spots. In some ways he's much more dangerous. ... There's not as many opportunities to make the big play."

While he has tried to keep a low profile about the relationship with Harmon, the success the Giants have had this season has made Sehorn a much sought-after story. A victory here over the Ravens will again make him a star, if the play against the Eagles didn't do that already. There is talk of more endorsements.

"If that happens, that's great," he said. "But let's wait until Monday morning."

After what it took for Sehorn to get back on this stage, what's another few days?

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