November 03, 2008 12:00 PM

How much does Trevor Wikre love football? Check out the pinkie on his right hand. Most of it has been amputated—all so he could stay in the season. “Football is huge to me,” says the 6’3″, 280-lb. offensive guard for the Mesa State College Mavericks in Grand Junction, Colo. “I can’t really explain it.”

During practice on Sept. 30 he caught his finger in a teammate’s jersey. The finger suddenly felt “odd” and when he took off his glove, he saw a jagged bone protruding through the skin. Doctors told him it was a season-ending fracture that would require pins to keep the bone in place; there were no guarantees it would ever heal correctly. “Then we can cut it off,” he told them. “It’s my senior year,” explains Wikre, 21, who says that in 14 years of play he never missed a game. “I didn’t want to sit it out.”

Although his doctor balked at first, Wirke says that after the extent of the damage to tendons and ligaments became evident—he may have faced amputation later in life—the surgery was performed. (Citing privacy issues, the doctor refused comment.) Yet the loss of the top two joints is not enough to cramp his style: “It’s just a pinkie,” says Wikre, who has modified his footwork to cope. His parents, “devastated” at first, stand behind his choice. “We know what football means to him,” says his airline pilot dad, Jeff.

The education major has received a flurry of e-mails, most admiring his dedication but some criticizing his “stupid decision.” Wikre admits he now has trouble typing and texting, but he has no regrets. “Don’t let the little things in life stop you from doing something great,” he says.

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