TCU senior quarterback Casey Pachall said he has matured and been "really humbled" after his time away from school last season to participate in a substance-abuse program.
While he missed his teammates and being on the field, Pachall quickly realized he had to get things straight in his own life.
"I struggled with that aspect, being away from the team the whole time," Pachall said Wednesday. "But also like after about a week or two, I did have that little moment of clarity, and came to realize that i was screwing everything up, and it was completely my fault that I'm in the situation that I'm in, and who all I let down."
Pachall publicly addressed his situation for the first time on the same day that the Horned Frogs reported to campus for the start of fall practice, and preparing for their second season in the Big 12.
Asked what specifically he was in rehabilitation for, he responded, "I'll just say alcohol, but that's the most detail I'm going to get into it."
After starting the Horned Frogs' first four games last season, all victories, Pachall was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. He left school in October for a treatment program. He had admitted to police earlier last year that he smoked marijuana and failed a team-administered drug test before his former roommate and teammate was arrested in a drug sting.
Coach Gary Patterson said it was the quarterback's decision to talk to reporters for the first time since he was suspended by the team and then left school.
"Everything that's happened has really humbled me and helped me out as far as my mentality, so everything's that happened happened for a reason and I understand that now," Pachall said. "I'm actually very grateful for it now."
Pachall completed his treatment program in time to re-enroll at TCU for the spring semester, and also went through spring drills with the Horned Frogs, who went 3-6 after Pachall's departure and finished 7-6 after a 17-16 loss to Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
"Watching those games on Saturday wasn't easy at all. Sometimes I couldn't even watch them. Just because at times seeing my team struggle and seeing them, I know the feeling of losing," Pachall said.
The quarterback was unclear at that point if he would play football again, but said that possibility served as motivation.
"If I were to get myself right then I could possibly come back and do the things I need to do," he said.
Since replacing Andy Dalton, TCU's winningest quarterback, Pachall is 15-2 as the starter.
Pachall set single-season school records with 2,921 yards passing and 228 completions in 2012, including 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions while the Frogs won 11 games with a victory over Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl. He threw for 948 yards with 10 touchdowns and an only one interception in his four games last season.
Still, Patterson isn't just handing the starting job back to Pachall. Texas' David Ash, with only one more, is the only current Big 12 quarterback with more starts that Pachall.
Patterson described the competition for the starting job as close between Pachall and Trevone Boykin, who as a freshman last year got thrust into the starting role and threw for 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine games. The decision is expected to be made determined on how both play in practice and a couple of scrimmage games, but the coach has said both will play this season. If they are close, Patterson said the starting edge would go to the senior Pachall.
"He has six to hours to graduate in the fall. Hopefully he has a great season, which would turn out to be a great success story," Patterson said. "Him and Trevone, we're very excited about both of those guys going into (Thursday's) practice. We are a lot further ahead at that position than we were a year ago."
Teammates, including senior tailback Waymon James and defensive end Jon Koontz, say they have seen a vibrant and confident Pachall since he returned to school in January.
"Initially, I didn't say too much, but at the same time I could tell by the look in their eyes they didn't have too much judgment," Pachall said. "I knew at the same time I had let them down but also coming back, it wasn't too much what I needed to say, it was what I needed to do. From that point on, it was just a mentality I had to have on and off the field to prove to them they could trust me and I could be their leader."