Sean Christie is no stranger to adversity.
Three days into his first training camp at Maryland in 2014 after graduating from Patchogue-Medford High School, the guard tore the medial patellofemoral ligament in his right knee. The following summer, he tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee and broke his right hand.
After that came head-coaching changes, new coaching staffs and systems. Then, the death of a fellow offensive lineman during a spring practice, which thrust Maryland into the national spotlight and led to the firing of its head coach.
“It’s definitely been a little bit of a roller coaster of a ride ever since I’ve been here,” Christie said. “Throughout my time here, we’ve had a few different head coaches, a few different offensive line coaches, a few different offensive coordinators. So in my six years, there’s kind of been a flux all the time, especially in our position group.”
But for the senior, the same approach that helps him get through practice each week helped him remain unfazed during those tough times — and has made him one of the Big Ten’s top linemen with his name on the Senior Bowl watch list.
“Every week, we’re faced with an opportunity to win, to get better,” Christie said. “It’s either an opportunity or it’s adversity, and to us it’s all about how we respond to that adversity.”
The former Newsday All-Long Island first-team selection took a medical redshirt to recover from his first knee injury, then used his regular redshirt the following season. The Terrapins finished 7-6 in Christie’s first season, then fell to 3-9 in 2015 as head coach Randy Edsall was fired following a 2-4 start.
That meant that Christie not only had to make sure he was good to go physically but also learn an entirely new offensive scheme once D.J. Durkin was hired as head coach in 2016. Christie played special teams that year as he worked his way back into form and re-adjusted to the speed of the game.
“I think the hardest thing for me was just coming back from two years of injuries, two years of not playing, being removed from the game physically, in a sense,” he said. “And coming back and kind of being worse off than when you were when you came in, and having to combat that and get better, get your technique right, be able to run off the ball, be able to have full confidence in yourself and your ability.”
Christie became the starting left guard in 2017 and immediately made an impact, helping the Terrapins’ running game average 161 yards per game en route to a 4-8 season.
“The more experience that I’ve had, the more time I’ve spent here, the more time I’ve spent studying opponents’ film, the better understanding that I have of the game,” he said. “I think that’s something that’s really helped me out.”
The following spring, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair collapsed from heat stroke during a practice on May 29, 2018, and died two weeks later. The death became the focus of a national discussion about football safety and led to Durkin’s firing.
Christie credits his teammates for helping him get through those dark days.
“At the end of the day, we’ve been through everything together – good, bad, indifferent,” he said. “If you could just mesh with that group of guys in your position group, that’s definitely the best. For me, the best experience is the bond, the brotherhood that you form with not only everybody in your position group, but the whole team.”
The Terrapins went 5-7 under interim head coach Matt Canada last year, then in December hired Mike Locksley – who was the interim head coach after Edsall’s firing. Once again, new offensive systems had to be learned, but Christie found the positive behind it.
“Every coach had something different they brought to the table,” he said, “and as a player if you can grasp onto a little bit of that, that’ll go a long way.”
The results have borne fruit for Christie and the Terrapins. Maryland (3-3) ranks 31st in the nation in rush yards per game this season, averaging 212.8 yards behind star tailback Anthony McFarland and backups Tayon Fleet-Davis, Javon Leake and Jake Funk. Last year, the running game finished 17th with 230.3 rush yards per game.
“They’re not only great running backs, but they’re also great kids, great people,” Christie said of the Terrapins’ backfield over the last few seasons. “Yeah, having them in the backfield really makes your job as an offensive lineman a lot easier.”
Christie was named to the Senior Bowl’s in-season watch list over the summer, and NFL scouts have come to visit at practices. Christie isn’t thinking about what may happen after his long career at Maryland comes to an end but admitted that it was cool to get noticed by the pros.
“When I saw it, I was definitely hyped about it. I was hyped even more when I saw that we had, like, five or six dudes from our team on there,” he said. “But yeah, it’s real nice to focus on all of that kind of stuff and think about that and the positives of what that could be, and if that happens I’ll be forever grateful, but right now I’m focused on [Saturday’s game against] Indiana.”