As TCU coach Gary Patterson encounters the unwelcome scrutiny that comes with a lawsuit alleging misdeeds involving an injured player, he has an advocate in a former star quarterback, who credits the coach with helping him change the course of his life.
Casey Pachall today wonders what might be had he not been headed toward a figurative cliff after his college career hit a detour with a DWI arrest in October 2012.
He was suspended by Patterson and sent to get help with substance-abuse issues. Pachall’s experience isn’t exactly atypical for college students his age, but very few go through it so publicly.
It was in many ways an unfair public shaming, but when it’s the star quarterback -- playing the state’s favorite pastime on one of the country’s top programs -- standing accused of one of society’s worst taboos in driving drunk … .
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“I was being self-centered, reckless and not smart at all,” said Pachall, now 27. “It was a rough experience. It was tough to go through, but I have learned from it. [Patterson] was disappointed, but he did everything he could … exhausted all resources he could to help me down the road.
“He did his very best to stay positive. [Many people probably thought] I bet you the first thing that crossed his mind was to beat this kid with a bat. He did none of that. He didn’t yell ... he said ‘we need to get you straight.’”
Pachall, who played at TCU from 2010-13 and earned a degree in general studies, certainly appears today to be a fixed man, and he believes his former coach deserves a good deal of credit for it.
He is married and living in Fort Worth with a child on the way. He works for an auto finance company in Dallas.
Pachall, who played at Brownwood High School under coach Steve Freeman, succeeded Andy Dalton, the quarterback who led the Horned Frogs to a historic Rose Bowl victory in 2011.
Dalton was a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals after that season, and some thought Pachall might be next in line for a job in the NFL. Pachall had NFL measurables, including size at 6-foot-5.
As a sophomore, Pachall passed for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns, completing 67 percent of his passes. He had seven interceptions while leading the Frogs to an 11-2 record and a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Then problems began to emerge.
Before his DWI arrest, Pachall reportedly told police investigating a string of drug busts in and around campus in February of 2012 that he had failed a drug test for marijuana and that he had fiddled around with other illegal drugs the year before.
He avoided suspension, but issued a public apology.
Today, Pachall is adamant about making no excuses, though he did say the move from high school student-athlete under the thumb of a strict father, who was a state trooper, to essentially on his own in a big city was a “big transition.”
“I do think, to an extent, that was an issue,” Pachall said. “I went overboard on the freedom. It was something new to me. I enjoyed having that type of freedom. I did not handle it the way I needed to handle it.”
His advice for any incoming freshman: “Surround yourself with the right people. Put yourself around people you see yourself growing with.”
Pachall, today still grateful Patterson allowed him back on the team, returned for his senior season, but played in only seven games after breaking his arm in the season opener against LSU.
After graduation, Pachall worked out for several NFL teams at TCU’s pro day. They all took a pass.
He spent much of the 2014 season as a backup with the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders.
Football as a career is in his past, he said.
“There comes a time you have to evaluate when things aren’t going the way you want them to," said Pachall, the No. 17 pro-style QB in 2009 per 247Sports. "You’ve got to take life on. That part has never left me and never well, but I understood the reality of things.”
In his rearview mirror is a football career full of good moments and memories. In the end, though, Pachall’s greatest triumph turned out to be a DWI arrest late one night.
His redemption was from above, his peace perpetual. With a big assist from his coach.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be where I am if that situation had not happened," he said. "I wouldn’t have learned my lesson. I wouldn’t have become a man. At the time, I was acting childish, I was a selfish person. It really humbled me.”