Starting senior year I had a lot to prove coming in from my junior season. My junior season was a learning experience I needed to go through in order to find the success I had my senior year.
Switching positions at the beginning of the year, moving from being an offensive lineman to becoming a tight end. I started off third on the depth chart with three weeks to go from the first game of the season. The tight ends coach told me at the beginning of my transition to the position told me I would never not have my hand in the dirt or be put in unless it was to be an extra offensive lineman. I knew something about myself that nobody else believed in, never letting my coach’s words affect me.
By week one I was the starter splitting reps with the other tight ends. It wasn’t good enough, for months I had let the words and opinions of my coaches fuel me. Why stop now when there is still more to go out and get.
Week four came around and I earned myself the complete starting role and couldn’t have been more ecstatic. The next week was an off week for the team and we drew up a bunch of plays, we had a game plan coming up against the toughest opponent of the season. We showed to be strong through three quarters, then the game slipped away from us in the fourth. With one final drive in the game that meant nothing, I go out on a pass then turn around to block and as I engage with the multiple defenders I feel my arm go numb then shoot in pain.
My left shoulder completely popped out of socket, stumbling around gasping in pain as I ran off the field it finally popped back. Couple weeks later the doctor tells me, the rotator cuff is torn from the bone and my labrum is torn 210 degrees around my shoulder. Junior year me would’ve sat down and threw his hands up but it was different this time, I had something to prove.
After two games off, there are three guaranteed games left on our schedule. Out there fighting with a huge brace on my arm under the pads was me giving everything I’ve got. The Vikings lose two close games with a scenario we have to face, win this last game by 15 and punch our ticket to the playoffs . Anything else was unacceptable to us.
By the time the week comes around and we all get ready for our last possible practices together as a team my coach walks over and tells me “I see you John Casey ” those five words stuck with me all week. Come game night looking at the game card “number 83 John Casey captain Lamar vs SGP.” Never was I more ready for a game, coming out the gates hot we maintained our Viking intensity while playing all 48 minutes with every ounce of juice we had.
Clock strikes two minutes in the fourth quarter as we’re up by seven, driving down the field we get into the red zone with thirty seconds we are fired up as we score a touchdown then we all see it. Yellow marker on the field, no touchdown, we back up the ball, call a few more plays and get just inches from scoring. One second on the clock we are fired up as a squad and then we all hear our head coach Billy Skinner say “ lets do it y-pop y-pop lets run it” thats my play I think to myself as I get line up. “Ready go” I get off the line and look back as my quarterback scrambles around from a missed snap, waving my hand in the air as he lets the ball fly. Intercepted by the defense, after making the tackle on the final play of my football career every image of the game I’ve loved since I could remember, played since the second grade runs through my brain.
Dropping to my knees in tears, “I would’ve done it again a thousand times” Skinner says as he looks at me. In that moment collecting myself I could reflect on what football meant to me and what it really meant to be a Lamar Viking. I would do it all over again for my brothers and coaches. Nobody thought much of me ten weeks ago but now I was given the opportunity to go out there and catch the ball for Lamar on our last play of the year as well as be a captain for us in the same game. I love Lamar and everything we stood for and definitely would do it all over again.