McKINNEY — The Casey Pachall who arrived at TCU was a punk. The Casey Pachall who graduated from TCU is a man. He does not do it often, but every so often, Casey Pachall the man looks back and, not unlike everybody else who has ever drawn a breath, shakes his head about the kid.“I was immature and egotistical,” Pachall said. “That was a part of my downfall, and because of that, it has changed me a lot. … I think, ‘Why the hell did I do that or say that?’ There are a lot of things I regret. At the same time, it all led up to it. I needed that reality check.”Pachall today is a college graduate living in Plano and working out at the Michael Johnson Performance Center.His is a bizarre story arc, and there is no guarantee that he will ever play an NFL down. But there is little reason to believe he will not be a contributing member of society.Pachall was one vote shy of earning an invite to the NFL Combine and instead will focus entirely on TCU’s Pro Day on March 6, hoping to impress a team into drafting or signing him.The kid with so much talent and promise who arrived one semester early to TCU from Brownwood in 2009 went through his own version of hell to get here, and there is no way he does not deserve a shot.The combine snubThirteen teams vote on prospects, and to receive an invite to the combine, a player needs nine votes. Pachall received eight.How did a senior with a big arm, standing 6-foot-5 with more than 4,000 yards and 41 touchdown passes and 32 games of major college football on his résumé not score an invite to the combine?He is not entirely sure.Between the eight games he missed in 2012 after he disenrolled from TCU after his arrest for a DWI and the five games he missed in 2013 because of a broken left arm, he was absent in the normal evaluation time completed by NFL teams.And when he did play in 2013, he was not the same guy who showed so much in 2010, 2011 and the first four games of 2012. When Pachall returned in 2013, he looked slow and unsure.It did not help that his offensive line was bad, his receivers were erratic at best and his running game was sporadic.“Coach [Gary] Patterson asked me after the first game of the year, ‘I feel like you lost your edge,’ ” Pachall said.He had. Even when he returned several weeks ahead of schedule to play some against Texas on Oct. 26, he was not the same guy.He figures he wasn’t normal until November against West Virginia.In the final four games, he passed for 1,154 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. The team was in a position to win all four of those games but finished 1-3.Maybe that is the reason 18 other quarterbacks were selected to attend the combine and he was not.If it’s something else, he wants to set the record straight.Seeing the lightScouts or representatives from 16 NFL teams interviewed Pachall at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl on Jan. 11 in Charleston, S.C. One of the questions, or concerns, wasn’t the DWI, but that he was one of the players involved in the February 2012 drug bust that led to the arrest of four TCU players.His roommate was Tanner Brock, who was one of the players arrested, but Pachall was never implicated, other than hearsay. A few months ago, Brock made it clear in an interview that Pachall had zero involvement.If there are any concerns about his DWI in 2012 ...“That was the lowest point,” he said. “My dad is a state trooper, and he always told me, ‘If you go to jail, get comfortable because you are not getting out anytime soon.’ That was his lesson — to keep me in there and make me think about it. They didn’t get me out until 1 p.m. the next day. All you can do is think about it.“Walking out of that cell and seeing the look on my parents’ face, the complete disappointment and knowing everybody that I let down — that was my fear when I was sitting in jail.”A few weeks later after he left TCU, he entered a treatment facility in Austin.“The second day there, I was on the bed looking at the ceiling,” he said. “I was pretty depressed. I was pretty scared. I didn’t know what the future was going to look like.”When Pachall returned to TCU in January 2013, coaches and support staff immediately noticed a difference. One assistant coach said, “He has seen the light.”He caught up on his schoolwork, which he admits he let lapse.He resumed his relationship with his longtime girlfriend.He was not oblivious to some of the comments and jokes pointed his way, either in class or when he was walking on campus.“I could hear some of it,” he said. “I’m not deaf.”He is not quite done completing his community service stemming from his DWI — some of which includes mopping and cleaning at a nearby synagogue. He also was preparing to do some work at a center that rescues exotic animals.After he suffered the broken left arm in the second week of the season, he admits he was pretty sure that was it. The original prognosis said he might have been able to return for the final game of the season. Returning was not an option at all. He was going to graduate and leave.In December, when he walked across the stage to receive his degree, he felt a sense of accomplishment and relief.“More relief. It had been such a struggle to get there with the things I was doing,” he said. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t smart or not capable. I was not trying. That’s on me. And the accomplishment — being gone, messing up, coming back — that did feel good.”To date, despite all that happened, Pachall is glad he came back rather than transfer or quit.“I wanted to prove to people who said I couldn’t do anything unless it was all set up for me,” he said. “I wanted to show them up.”Ready for the NFLPachall is 23, looks good and sounds nothing like the kid who replaced Andy Dalton as TCU’s quarterback in 2011. As to why he was not invited to the combine?One NFL scout said it would not surprise him if teams deliberately did this in an effort to “hide” him and then draft him. He is ranked as the 22nd-best QB prospect available in 2014 by NFLDraftScout.com. At this point, there is so much guessing and conjecture, anything is conceivable.He will land with a team. It’s merely a question of how.There is nothing he can do about it except be candid when a team calls and look good on TCU’s Pro Day.He sounds like a mature young man who has taken responsibility for all of his screw-ups. He repeatedly thanked Patterson and TCU for the opportunity they extended.“I do feel really good now,” he said. “Things have gotten so much better with my family and everybody in my life. The route I was headed in 2011 — I wasn’t starting to lose friends, but things were rocky and shaky with my girlfriend. I was [ticking] a lot of people off. I would get called in every now and then to Coach P’s office when he got an email about something stupid I did — not with the law — just stupid, or something stupid I said. I don’t even remember. Just thinking back on it, what was I thinking?”Other than shake his head, there is nothing he can do about the kid he once was. The man he is now hopes an NFL team gives him a chance. Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog on www.star-telegram.com/sports.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof