WR Skelton Storms Back From Knee Injury

* Senior split end is finally ready to play ball

Colby Skelton's eyes blaze. The senior wide receiver rocks back and forth in his chair and pounds his slab-like hands on the table. Only Skelton's appearance-he wears a gray-and-red Harvard athletic sweatsuit-hints of relaxation.

Skelton, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while running a split end reverse in the first half of the Yale game on Nov. 23, thirsts to return to the lineup and haul down sophomore quarterback Rich Linden's passes this season.

"I wanted to start playing again in the second half [against Yale]," Skelton said with a laugh. More seriously, he said, "I knew I'd be playing again."

To ensure his presence on the field, Skelton spent last winter and this past spring with trainers, and has practiced throughout the summer.

"Colby has made a miraculous recovery, due to a fanatical work effort," Harvard Coach Tim Murphy said. "He's not 100 percent, but after his catastrophic knee injury and reconstruction, I don't know if anyone can be 100 percent. He's done as much as any kid can do."

Skelton's mother, Margaret Moillesaux, accompanied him when he underwent surgery at Mass. General on Dec. 11.

"My mom wouldn't have it any other way," Skelton said. "I have a close family and it's been a tremendous help."

Besides his relatives, Skelton also listed wide receivers coach Jay Mills as a huge help and friend during his rehabilitation.

For two weeks following the injury, Skelton wore a knee brace that kept his knee straight. He stopped using crutches, which were intended for a week, after only five days.

"I could walk with that big brace on," Skelton said.

Immobility rankled Skelton the most during his recovery.

"The process wasn't fast enough," Skelton said. "I like to be active. Doctors were telling me to take it easy, but I never felt so immobile in my life.

"I got frustrated, and for the two and a half weeks I was at home [following his injury], I was one pain in the butt to be around."

When the summer began, Skelton's recovery ended, and he returned to lifting and running hard. During the summer, Skelton lived on DeWolfe Street while working for the Hillman Jordan Management Company on State Street. Skelton devoted each night to working out.

The injury taught Skelton a crucial lesson: Patience.

"It's not one of my virtues in my life," he said. "I want to start running again, but I have to listen to trainers."

To others with similar injuries, he says, "You've got to be patient. You have to listen to doctors and do what they tell you. There's going to be up days and down days, and some times you might think your leg's going to get bigger. But keep thinking about being back."

When he returns to start at wide receiver for the third straight year, Skelton can refocus on surpassing Pat McInally's record of 108 career receptions. Skelton currently has 103, including 49 last year, which equalled Brian Barringer's mark for the secondmost in a single Harvard season.

"In the back of my mind, I'm worried about making a cut," Skelton said. "I don't feel differently, although it'll take a while to get in and out of some of the cuts. I'll be a little slower. But as far as I'm concerned, [the injury] never happened."

Skelton has already set school records in single-season punt return yardage (278 last year), career reception yards (1499), punt returns (61) and return yards (517). His teammates recognized Skelton's talents when they presented him with the Frederick Greeley Crocker Award last year.

The Crocker Award, according to the 1997 media guide, "is given annually to that Harvard football letterman who...possesses the initiative, perseverance, courage and selflessness which were demonstrated by Ted Crocker...In recent years, it's had a 'Most Valuable Player' connotation." Crocker, a 150-pound end of the 1933 Crimson team, was killed while serving on a destroyer in 1944.

"I don't know if Colby can be as explosive as he was before," Murphy said. "But he'll give us everything he's got, and that'll be enough."