Everybody, eventually, “get’s gone,” as TCU coach Gary Patterson put it earlier this week.
Coaches don’t coach forever and college players, including the Horned Frogs’ senior class, must say their goodbyes.
How Patterson handled senior quarterback Casey Pachall is likely to be remembered as fondly as any of his school-record wins. Pachall, whose TCU story has been akin to a Shakespeare play, will play his final game as a Horned Frog at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against ninth-ranked Baylor at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
“It’s really how you’re measured when you’re gone,” he said. “And everybody gets gone. [Joe] Paterno is gone, Bobby Bowden is gone, you can go down the list.”
Pachall’s career, which began in earnest with his first-career start in a thriller at Baylor in 2011, has been marked by well-documented personal struggles that forced him to leave the team after four games in 2012.
A broken arm sidelined him for five games this season, but he has returned to start the final four, including Saturday’s game, the season finale for the Frogs. Patterson’s deft handling of Pachall’s delicate predicament turned out as well as one could hope, sans the injury that kept him off the field and arguably cost TCU a few more wins.
“I don’t think you can measure the positive aspect,” Patterson said. “It’s a great story for our team. It’s a great story for anybody.”
Pachall, who figures to possess the physical talent to play in the NFL if a team is convinced his problems are in his past, has taken a zen approach to his situation.
He can’t change the past, he said, he can only prove himself. In fact, he’s often said that his forced departure from the team and three months in substance abuse treatment a year ago was the best thing to happen to him. He wouldn’t have responded with such a positive attitude after breaking his non-throwing left arm in the second game this season if he hadn’t gone through his previous ordeal.
“Things probably would have been a lot worse if that was the case,” he said. “It’s changed me a lot, it’s changed my mentality, it’s changed everything physically. The possibility of going to the next level in the state that I am right now, is a lot better than it would have been a year ago if nothing had happened, so, I’m very grateful for that and I’m just happy that I’m still sitting here right now.”
Patterson has seen a transformation in Pachall since he returned to the team last January. And Pachall continues to show his progress. Patterson saw a fan taunt Pachall at Kansas State two weeks ago. Pachall smiled and kept walking.
“The maturity level of how he has handled himself and everything,” Patterson said. “If you think about the young man that went through what he did last year and then battles himself back and then he breaks his arm and he’s walking in my office and says he wants to travel with the team ...
“I’m not looking forward to that hug when he walks out of the tunnel because his time is over, but I’ll be proud he walked out of the tunnel.”
Then Patterson got as about as wistful as he ever gets when trying to put Pachall’s odyssey in perspective.
“Nobody understands in the outside world what it’s like — what coaches and players do on a yearly basis to go out and play 12 ballgames. Nobody does. Then you put that on top of all the other things. It’s a special time for his family and him.”
“It feels good just to be able to come back and start to get back in the groove that I used to be in, but of course, this isn’t the way we wanted to finish this season,” Pachall said, trying his best not to dwell on what might have been. “There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
TCU vs. Baylor
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Amon G. Carter Stadium
Head to head
|Points per game||23.9||56.8|
|3rd down conv.||31.7||50.7|
|Def. 3rd down conv.||36.7%||34.7%|