There’s a bible verse that runs across the front of Casey Pachall’s forearm, just below his right elbow, that’s in small enough print to get buried among the inches of ink that seem to grow by the sleeve across the arms of Horned Frogs’ quarterback.
For I know the plans I have for you, it begins and winds down to the edge of his wrist. His sister reminds him of the verse before every game.
If Pachall is a saint, he doesn’t look the part, nor does he boast the usual traits recipients of canonization tend to boast. He has his tattoos, and he appears to rotate through a revolving door of haircuts, none of which evoke visions of Don Draper.
Last year against Baylor, his starting debut, his stringy locks dangled out the back of his helmet down to his shoulders. Later in the season, against Boise State, he had a TCU logo shaved into one side of his head and a No. 4 into the other, which was only topped by his Poinsettia Bowl design – a flying TCU, the same logo the school’s marketing department has been trying to squash for years.
On Monday, at Day 1 of Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, Pachall went with the conservative cut – a Mohawk.
In an image-is-everything world, Pachall stands out. And in a program like TCU, with his predecessor the most pristine of all pristine images, Pachall stands out even more, and not always in a good way.
That’s why Monday, during his individual interview session, Pachall was asked about if he hears the rumors that tend to swirl around the TCU campus, the type of meaningless whispers surrounding most Division I quarterbacks but have seemed to grow into quasi-legend around the Brownwood native.
“I don’t listen to that,” he said.
No surprise there, but it was Pachall’s reaction to the question, not the answer itself, that might have said more about the junior’s short tenure as the Frogs’ signal caller than anything he’s told the press these past 11 months. Pachall knew exactly what “that” was – anything and everything related to his life away from Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Pachall hears it. He knows what’s said, how often it’s said and he knows people close to him – his family, his friends – probably have heard it, too.
“I’m sure maybe whatever they’ve heard might have bothered them,” he said. “But they don’t bring it up to me because they know it’s not that big of a deal.”
Of course it isn’t “that big of a deal” because that’s what he’s supposed to say, but even if it was a big deal, Pachall has done a pretty good job at concealing it.
His teammates might need to follow his lead.
Talk is just talk, and most of it is usually anonymous on message boards or behind the veil of Twitter handles, but there’s been plenty of it floating around since February, when four TCU players (three starters) were arrested on drug charges.
Then there were the departures of Deryck Gildon and starting running back Ed Wesley. The rumors, again, began swirling.
Defections and player run-ins with the law are nothing new to college football; in fact they’re increasingly becoming more and more common. But they haven’t been common at TCU – hardly ever – and, as expected, the longer the run of spotless years, the muddier things seem when those law run-ins and defections start to happen.
So now TCU, a program led to national prominence by the poster boy of the all-American clean cut image in Andy Dalton, is entering the Big 12, but doing so while fighting a few image battles on the side.
“A lot of people just wanted to get whatever they could on people,” Pachall said of the fallout after the February drug bust. “That’s the way a lot of things are. That’s the way college is and really life in general. I didn’t listen to anything anybody had to say.”
Pachall hasn’t lost an image battle, because he’s yet to engage in one. He respects Andy Dalton, and he learned from Andy Dalton, but he isn’t Andy Dalton – “I got the tattoos, and how I dress and everything, it’s completely opposite of him” — and he doesn’t shy away (at least not anymore) from getting that point across.
“I knew coming into it, right when he left, I already had the mindset that I didn’t want to be like Andy, I didn’t want to be Andy,” he said. “I just wanted to do what I had to do and just be my own person.”
So perhaps he isn’t perfect. And perhaps he’s still a 21-year-old college kid. But perhaps he doesn’t forget the permanence of that ink on his forearm and the fleetingness of those rumors.
Maybe that’s why ignoring the whispers has come so easy for Pachall, who before every snap, every check of his play sheet, every go-route to Josh Boyce, catches a glance of one those old assurances needled up and down his arm, his own collection of “things to live by.”
For I know the plans I have for you…