Casey Pachall has made quite a comeback, even without another championship or bowl game for TCU.
More important than anything on the field, though getting back in the game was a significant step, the Horned Frogs senior quarterback is grateful for the way he's changed a year after leaving the team for an alcohol rehabilitation program.
"It's changed my mentality, it's changed everything physically. It's changed everything," Pachall said this week. "Going through this whole situation right now, the possibility of going to the next level, in the state I am right now is a lot better than it would have been if nothing had happened. ... I'm very grateful for that and I'm just happy that I'm still sitting here right now."
Pachall plays his final game for the Frogs (4-7) on Saturday against ninth-ranked Baylor to finish their first losing season since 2004. The quarterback is among 16 TCU seniors to be recognized before the game."I'm not looking forward to that hug when he walks out of the tunnel, because his time is over," coach Gary Patterson said. "But I'll be proud of the walk down the tunnel."
The Frogs won 11 games in 2011 with a bowl victory in Pachall's first season starting, and clinched their third consecutive Mountain West title. They were 4-0 in their Big 12 debut last year before the quarterback was arrested on a DWI charge near campus in October 2012.
Less than a week after his arrest, Pachall left school to enter a substance abuse treatment and TCU lost six of its last nine games. Only eight months earlier, he had admitted to police that he smoked marijuana and failed a team-administered drug test before his former roommate was among four former players and other TCU students arrested in a drug sting.
Pachall completed the rehab program in time to return to school in January and then go through spring drills with the Frogs.
"A lot of times I just think of it as helping other people grow because I feel I haven't been on the field enough to really have made a huge difference at the university," Pachall said when asked how he reflects on his time with the Frogs. "So in a way, I just look at it as maybe I was helping somebody else get better toward their goals."
When he followed Andy Dalton as the TCU starter in 2011, Pachall threw 25 touchdowns and set single-season school records with 2,921 yards passing and 228 completions. He passed for 948 yards with 10 TDs and one interception in his four games last season. His 64.2 career completion percentage is the best at TCU -- and he'd have to throw 26 consecutive incompletions in his final game to lose that spot.
Pachall was the starter again this season before breaking multiple bones in his left (non-throwing) arm in the second game and missing five games. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Pachall, who is praying that he will still get an NFL shot, has thrown for 887 yards in three starts since returning and is on track to graduate with his communications degree in December.
"It feels good just to be able to come back and start to get back in the groove that I used to be in," Pachall said.
Patterson is proud of how Pachall has handled himself, from staying involved with the team and being a leader after getting hurt this year, to ignoring with a smile comments directed at him by opposing fans on the road.
"I don't even think you could measure the positive aspect of that. It's a great story, it's a great story for our team, it's a great story for anybody," the coach said. "Before this was all played out, I told people I wouldn't have did it any different. And obviously it's a lot easier for me to say that now."