Casey Pachall returned to school Monday a little more than three months after being arrested on DWI charges. The senior quarterback, who spent time in a substance abuse rehab facility and a subsequent outpatient program, is back.
Good for him. Good for TCU. Good for college football.
And none of the above has anything to do with winning football games.
It’s rare today that a college or pro athlete is truly held accountable for their mistakes.
There’s plenty of slap-on-the-wrist one-game suspension punishments, the kind that make a point to the outside world that a team or university “cares,” that a player in trouble with the law or class pays for their actions.
Then there’s what Pachall was put through.
After just one arrest, Pachall was suspended from the team indefinitely. When he withdrew from the university in October, there was a possibility of never overcoming himself and coming back. A path to his return was in place, but there were no guarantees.
Pachall was placed in a position where he had to fight for what he lost.
And he did.
He went through the rehab, went through the counseling, went through the weekends without football. On Saturdays, Pachall either watched his teammates on TV or not at all.
He earned his way back.
In some sense, he played the game the right way.
Still, on the field, he hasn’t yet reached the light.
To begin with, he’s out of a job, for now at least. He’ll have to compete with Trevone Boykin and possibly Tyler Matthews – those two simply won’t concede the starting position.
There will be the doubters, too — those who will gauge his comeback by wins and yards and touchdowns. They’ll focus on the tangibles.
But with Pachall, it’s never been solely about wins or losses, successes or failures. The aura around him goes deeper than that.
Last season, in road games against teams like Baylor and Boise State, he wowed fans, but it rarely had little to do with the end results or the process he took to get there.
It was the way he played the game that did it, the imperfections and perfections bundled into one, the good throws and bad throws, the flair and the guts, the humble breed of flashiness.
He wasn’t always perfect, and his play wasn’t always flawless.
But he played the game the right way.
These past three months, the process might not have always been pretty. Surely it wasn’t an entirely smooth ride. Surely it didn’t always look good. The next few months probably won’t be perfect either.
He’ll be a little rusty, a little out of form, a little out of shape.
He’ll still be a quarterback with flaws, same as he’ll be a person with flaws.
But flaws don’t define character. They don’t change who you are. They don’t change the way you play the game.
You can’t alter something like that.
And it’ll be hard to convince me otherwise: on the field and in life, Pachall has played the game the right way, imperfections and perfections bundled into one.