The Elon University football team’s season just started, but an injury has already struck a huge blow to the most important position.
Sophomore quarterback Connor Christiansen’s season is over. The left-hander from Fishers, Indiana, was taken out of the Sept. 3 game against Gardner-Webb University after one series in the second half.
Christiansen underwent an MRI a few days later, and the results showed a shoulder injury that would require season-ending surgery. Head coach Rich Skrosky said the team is hopeful he can be available for spring practice.
“I want to thank everybody for the support,” Christiansen said. “It is obviously difficult for me to miss the rest of the season and not be able to play with these guys. I will keep my head up and work hard in my recovery process and be the best teammate I can be from the sidelines.”
Sophomore quarterback Daniel Thompson took over as quarterback after Christiansen’s injury, completing 10-of-16 passes for 102 yards. Thompson started at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Saturday and completed 28-of-50 passes for 322 yards.
“I’ve just been concerned with how Connor is,” Thompson said. “I want him to get better — he’s a friend and a teammate. I don’t want any of my teammates to get hurt. I do want to play, as anyone on the team would, but you never want someone to get hurt. I’m just praying for him to have a speedy recovery.”
It’s an ironic reverse of the 2015 season, when season-opening starter Thompson was sidelined with spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak, a neurological condition. At the time, Elon did not know how long Thompson would be out, but he only missed three games.
Christiansen was the starter in those games and lead Elon to two wins. Over the spring, summer and fall, Christiansen took the majority of the snaps as the top quarterback on the depth chart. Skrosky told Christiansen that he was starting Aug. 26 — eight days before Elon’s season began.
In an interview on Aug. 27, Christiansen talked about how he felt comfort knowing that, should anything happen to him, Thompson could seamlessly transition in for him.
“Football is a contact sport, and I’ve had a long history of injuries,” Christiansen said. “Like coach said, if something were to happen to me, God forbid, he wouldn’t bat an eye. Daniel is so devoted to the playbook and the offense that it would be a seamless transition, which is comforting for me, because I don’t have to worry about it being me or nothing.
“There’s a very capable quarterback right behind me. The team is going to be just fine.”
Thompson has the same faith in Christiansen, which Thompson said comes out of their friendship.
“Me and Connor have full confidence with each other,” Thompson said. “I think that’s why [Skrosky] was OK with whoever started. No matter what happened, we are friends and we believe in each other.”
The friendship they share is something Thompson admits is unique for players openly competing against each other for the starting spot, but both say there is no rivalry between the two — only love.
“I’d say a friendly competition,” Thompson said. “A rivalry is for people who don’t like each other, and we goof off. When we’re together away from the facility, I don’t think we ever talk about football — unless it’s a defense that we see and think of a way to attack it. But when we’re together, we joke and clown around. We have fun. We’re good friends. The competition is something that makes both of us better.”
Christiansen agreed, adding, “We’ll talk about stuff like our girlfriends or school, anything. It’s just like, no matter what competition the day brought, it’s still a good relationship, and we both support each other regardless of who is on the field.”
Both see a part of themselves in the other, and they both have come to value and cherish the bond they have.
And, regardless of who is on the field, they both will walk off the field as friends.
“We are so similar on and off the field,” Christiansen said. “We literally push each other as much as we can every day, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is [playing] or who isn’t. We both make each other better, and we’ve become really close, which is awesome.”