James Casey, a former standout football player at Azle High School, is headed to the Super Bowl as tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I've had a lot of crazy things happen to me, good and bad, but I always try to stay the course,” Casey said in an interview from California. “And mainly I've had great people around me."
Casey said it was his teenage years in Azle that prepared him to play – and now coach – in the NFL.
His wife Kylie was his high school sweetheart.
Get DFW local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC DFW newsletters.
"And we kind of hit it off and we went on a date, and then we never stopped dating since then,” Kylie Casey said. “Here we are."
Casey also faced tragedy.
His mother died when he was just 16, a sophomore, when their trailer caught fire, leaving him with virtually nothing.
The latest news from around North Texas.
"Absolutely nothing. He didn't have anything. It was a really sad thing,” said Azle High School head football coach Devon Dorris. "You tell the James Casey story and people don't believe it but every bit of it is true."
The entire community pitched in to help him, he said.
Casey ended up moving in with his athletic trainer at the time, Todd "Doc" Urbanek.
"Right thing to do,” Urbanek said. “He needed it, so we helped him out and it blossomed from there."
Casey now calls Urbanek his father.
"The lesson of his story is don't let life get you down,” Urbanek said.
Casey went on to play for several NFL teams including the Houston Texans before becoming a coach.
He was cut after five games as a Denver Bronco the same year the team went on to the Super Bowl.
Casey said his view of life is simple.
"If you work hard and do the right things people will help you and good things can happen to good people if you do it the right way,” he said.
Now, Casey's former trainer is headed to the Super Bowl at the invitation of the one-time student he took in as a member of his own family.
"I'm going to be screaming, screaming the whole time,” Urbanek said.
And so will Casey's wife.
"I almost get teary-eyed thinking about it because he has worked so hard for this moment,” Kylie Casey said.
Casey said he will never forget the people like Urbanek who helped him along the way.
"Like they say it takes a village to raise someone and I'm living proof," he said.