- David Ubben, College Football
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Before Casey Pachall left TCU's team to seek treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, there was no overwrought, grandiose conversation when both sides compromised to reach a fitting solution. There was no dramatic speech, no tear-filled pleas from either side of the table.
Gary Patterson's message to Pachall was simple: "We’ve got to change the direction you’re going," TCU's coach told ESPN.com in a recent interview.
During a February 2012 campus drug raid in which four football players were among 17 students arrested, Pachall admitted to police that he smoked marijuana and tried cocaine and ecstasy. Two weeks earlier, he had failed a team-wide drug test, and he shared a residence with linebacker Tanner Brock, who was kicked off the team after he was one of the players arrested in the sting.
The news of Pachall's admissions to police didn't surface until August. He spoke to media members and apologized for his "mistakes" but didn't take questions about the police report.
By October, the Frogs were 4-0 and in the top 15 and Pachall led the nation in quarterback rating. An October drunken driving arrest made it clear, however, that Pachall's substance abuse issues were not behind him.
"We really didn’t have a conversation. He didn’t have a choice in the matter. This was what he had to do if he wanted to have a chance to stay in school here," Patterson said. "The biggest thing for me was for him to understand he had hope that, if he did the things he had to do, that he had something to come back to, because playing college football and possibly having a chance to play in the NFL is really important to him."
Pachall was off the team and left to seek treatment, but Patterson made it clear in a news conference in the days that followed that if Pachall completed the program and left his supervisors and sponsors satisfied, he would still have a spot on the team.
"There were those who said I shouldn’t do anything, just suspend him a couple games. There were those who said you should get rid of him," Patterson said. "In this case, looking at all the information I had, I think this was one of those where we needed to help a young man out, not just because he’d been our starting quarterback. He’s not the first, nor will he be the last, that’s given help to. He just happens to be the most publicized."
Patterson didn't have much contact with Pachall during his in-patient treatment, but quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Rusty Burns kept in touch with his quarterback, who stopped by to see Patterson after leaving in-patient care and beginning outpatient treatment.
"I’ve tried to lend support when needed but really tried to make sure you didn’t show or give him any weaknesses in the fences," Patterson said. "He has to fight his own demons."
By January, Pachall had completed his treatment and re-enrolled at TCU, rejoining the team for workouts and working toward regaining both his teammates' trust and his spot as the team's starting quarterback, ahead of Trevone Boykin, who filled in for Pachall over the season's final nine games.
Amid skepticism from just about everyone, Patterson maintains that the competition is close.
"He’s doing well in class and football, but you can tell he hasn’t thrown a football in a while. But he’s going to keep getting stronger," Patterson said. "For him, it’s now getting back in it, getting your arm stronger, catch up to the speed of the game. The other thing, he left and finds some new people to work with. Him and Josh [Boyce] were kind of an item and now Josh is not here, so he’s got to find who he throws to later on. Trevone already has a feel for that."
Patterson laid out the payoff for Pachall if he could change the direction of his life. To this point, Pachall has held up his end. His journey, however, is only beginning. For anyone who has battled addiction, the fight to stay away from the vices that previously restrained him is never ending.
The two haven't spoken about Pachall's time in treatment, and for Patterson, there's no guarantee that Pachall's struggles are permanently behind him. The focus, though, remains in the present.
"The biggest thing is he understands there are a lot of people paying attention, so he’s got to make sure he walks a straight line," Patterson said. "He’s been doing the right things, and you just take it one day at a time. I don’t think he’s any different than any other person who’s dealt with this."
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