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September 11, 2013

Commentary: Forearm injury could end Pachall's TCU career, but let's hope not

If what happened Sunday happened the way Gary Patterson told it Tuesday afternoon, then I don't suspect we'll see Casey Pachall back in a TCU uniform.

This is all speculation, of course.

But Pachall, as Patterson recalled, walked into his head coach's office Sunday, a day removed from a surgery that would put him out at least two months, and requested two things: That he could hang around the team and help out with younger players, and that he could travel with the team.

He didn't ask about getting his starting job back, a chance he'll get, but, as Patterson noted, "the key is having not played if he can play at a high enough level." Apparently he didn't seem too interested in the possibility of a medical redshirt, since, as Patterson also noted, there's an "80 percent" chance he wouldn't use one anyways.

It sounds like on Sunday, left with a broken arm and a bleak prognosis, he just wanted to find out how he could spend the most time with a team he had to watch last year on television within rehab walls.

Or maybe he'll come back and lead TCU to a Big 12 championship or more.

I wrote nearly 2,000 words Sunday on our message board, detailing and re-mapping Pachall's career and making (admittedly, desperately at times) the case that it's Pachall who would be the better option for TCU at quarterback.

But this is Boykin's team now, and that's probably best for this team at this point. Stability doesn't always come in the best of forms, but when it does, you have to go with it. I'm sure TCU will get stability in Boykin.

Perhaps this Pachall saga is more of a personal thing. It's hard for it not to be.

My first game on the TCU beat was in 2011, when TCU played at Baylor to open the season. I was 19, just a sophomore, and covering it for the school newspaper. I admit: I was still shaking off some fanhoood. I wasn't openly rooting for the Frogs, but if you asked me on the drive down that day if I'd be disappointed in a TCU loss, then yeah, I'd have said yes. It was eight months removed from my school winning a Rose Bowl during my freshman year. You'll have to forgive me.

But that game grew me up.

You know how it went. TCU trailed by 23 late at the start of the fourth quarter, then Pachall threw three touchdowns and led a field goal drive to put the Frogs up by one with four minutes left. But a kick went out of bounds and Robert Griffin III got Baylor in a good enough spot for a game-winning field goal. Pachall followed with an interception in the final seconds and TCU lost.

Still, until that night, I never knew such success could come from a loss, such progress from perceived failure. Pachall, as I distinctly remember writing after the game, had won his team. It taught me, as a reporter, I could often learn more from a loss than a win.

Fast forward two years, and Pachall has built, for better or worse, a bigger legacy than just that one Friday night in Waco.

He would go on to: win 16 games as a starter; beat the No. 5 team at a place that team hadn't been beaten in a decade; win a Mountain West championship and a Poinsettia Bowl; break most of Andy Dalton's single-season passing records; admit to police he failed a team-issued drug test; admit to police he had previously tried cocaine; get arrested on DWI charges; get kicked off the team; voluntarily go to rehab; get sober; come back to the team and win a job Gary Patterson wouldn't publicly give to him until he started against LSU; wait 10 months in between those starts but get benched in the third quarter of his first game back; stay the starter for his second game back; break his arm; offer his services as a mentor to help the future of other players, when his own was still uncertain; stay sober.

Two years of talent and turmoil. And, of course, tattoos.

And I've realized: Casey Pachall might be a roller coaster, but that's OK because roller coasters keep moving forward.

Again, I don't know if we've seen that last of him as a Horned Frog. I'm not an orthopedic surgeon. I don't know the recovery rate of quarterbacks with a broken, non-throwing arm, especially if that quarterback is looking to make a living at the next level. Which I assume Pachall is looking to do.

But if this IS the end, if this is the last chance we get to write about Casey Pachall, outside of a recap of a university press release informing us he's not coming back, then I better get not miss my chance. Because regardless, this IS my last chance.

I've accepted a job at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where I'll start next week covering high schools and other area sports. I've enjoyed my time at Rivals and Purple Menace, both as a publisher and staff writer, and I've been lucky enough to cover TCU during an important time. But the opportunity and timing were right for me to try my hand elsewhere.

It's funny though. I was thinking: My first game covering TCU was Pachall's first and there's a chance my last could be his last, too. I've had the chance to follow a winding and often fascinating tale.

So if my stay on the TCU beat does end up being bookended by the arrival and departure of Casey Pachall (and even if it doesn't), then I just have to say.

It's been one hell of a pleasure.


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