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Kyman Embodied Spirit of CS Northridge : His Collegiate Career Ends With Ankle Injury, but Memories of Glory Linger

September 11, 1993|MIKE HISERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chris McGee saw the foot. The toes, instead of pointing toward the ceiling, were turned in the direction of the floor.

He heard the screams too, as doctors worked to wrestle his friend's ankle back into joint.

McGee was scared. His buddy, Coley Kyman, was in excruciating pain.

Of all possible scenarios, this was not the way Kyman's collegiate athletic career was supposed to end.

There had been so many good times. So many victories in volleyball. The NCAA Division I championship match against UCLA before a packed house at Pauley Pavilion. Three All-American awards.

There was the comeback win in football against Eastern New Mexico State he engineered three years ago coming off the bench as a freshman.

And, of course, there were the touchdowns he accounted for earlier that night against San Diego State in his debut as Cal State Northridge's starting quarterback.

Only a few hours before he lay writhing in pain on a hospital bed, Kyman was high-stepping his way to the sideline, hands raised high, celebrating his two-yard touchdown run that gave the Matadors an improbable 14-7 first-quarter lead over the heavily favored Aztecs.

A crowd of 40,872 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium sat in stunned silence.

Kyman reveled in the moment.

But there were other plays, including the fateful final one. With 13 minutes 59 seconds to play, Kyman was sandwiched between a San Diego State defender and one of his own linemen after an attempted pass.

He went down in a heap and stayed there, crumpled, until he was taken away on a stretcher.

Bob Burt, the Northridge football coach, knew Kyman's football season was over as soon as he arrived on the scene. "Anytime you have a leg facing one way and a foot facing the other, you know there is a major problem," Burt said.

In surgery three days later, doctors reattached every ligament and repaired a fracture in Kyman's right ankle. It had taken him three years to become Northridge's starting quarterback, a job he held for a fleeting three quarters.

Worse, in the hours immediately after his injury, Kyman wondered if his goal of playing volleyball in the Olympics also was shattered. He had given up his berth on the U.S. 'B' team, a developmental squad for potential Olympians, to use his final season of football eligibility.

After the season, Kyman planned to turn his attention solely on earning a spot on the U.S. team for the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Making the squad was a goal he shared with his mother, who died in 1990.

But he also had promised himself one last chance at a sport he described as his "first love."

Kyman's decision to play football is one he does not regret. He knew the potential for injury. Typically, he felt the rewards were worth the risk.

"Even though I'm hurt, I'm glad I was around such a great bunch of guys as long as I was," Kyman said this week, still in pain two days after surgery. "I'm glad I got to play in a stadium with 40,000 people watching. That's why I play."

Saying Kyman will be missed is comparable to saying his injury merely hurt.

McGee, who claimed he was Kyman's brother in order to make his way from the upper deck of Jack Murphy Stadium to his friend's side, credits his former volleyball teammate with "redefining Northridge sports."

"He gave sports at Northridge character," McGee said. "He gave us an identity. We're not that little school in the Valley anymore."

Kyman not only won volleyball matches, he also helped instill spirit, pride and camaraderie rarely enjoyed by previous Northridge athletes.

Together with McGee and Matt Unger, another volleyball teammate, Kyman founded the Matamaniacs, a group of fun-loving Matador athletes who dress in wild clothes and makeup to cheer Matador teams and jeer their opponents.

"Coley's pride in this school is awesome, especially when you consider that no one else has it," said John Price, Northridge's volleyball coach. "When he came in here as a freshman, he was embarrassed by the lack of pride the athletes had in their school.

"He was on a one-man mission to turn that around. And he has."

Kyman always has worn his emotions on his sleeve. He steadfastly refuses to wear T-shirts or other apparel that promotes another college.

"The guy is a real dyed-in-the-wool, loyal Matador," Burt said. "He epitomizes what you would like all of your athletes to be."

Kyman, who became one of the nation's top volleyball players while at Reseda High, could have accepted scholarships from several universities with steep sports traditions.

Instead, he chose Northridge, the school his father, Bernie, once attended. In Division I volleyball, the Matadors had never posted a winning record.

Knowing this, Kyman came in swaggering anyway. Before he played a match for Northridge, he made a bet with Tom Sorenson, a friend who was Pepperdine's top volleyball recruit.

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